ONE BIRD SINGING

A strange day, windy and warm

Trees bending and swaying

Our doors slamming up and down the stairs.

No storm. Just a wind, wailing until

A bird came and sat on the deck railing

He sang a song so loud and clear

We thought it was a computer, maybe a phone

Too loud to be real.

But then it didn’t stop.

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Irregular the song and ever louder he called until

I rose and went to see where the music began.

There he was. A tiny warbler on the railing.

From his open throat a song trilled pure and clear

And he such a tiny thing. Feathers, beak and a big voice

Yet so loud the wind could not match him.

That was my day. Today.

Come back tomorrow little songbird. Serenade me again.

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WEEKLY WRITING CHALLENGE - Time for Poetry

Marsh and Wetlands – Marilyn Armstrong

Along the river you will find marsh and wetlands. These are the places where the birds feed and breed, where fish lay their eggs, where turtles multiply and come out to sun themselves on the rocks.

Herons, egrets, and other water fowl make their homes here. Humans generally don’t like these areas much. Too many bugs.

Mosquitoes are thick in the air, but they make wonderful food for many of the smaller creatures that live in these areas. Rich with life of all kinds, the wetlands are fed by the same river that flows down from the Worcester hills to the sea at Providence.

The wetlands are beautiful and rich … Just make sure you wear a lot of insect repellent. And bring your camera.

The wetlands and marsh that spreads out along the river are the richest ecological areas in the region and are fragile. Around the valley, because the river so dominates our environment, the wetlands are to be found anywhere and everywhere.

Homeowners get upset when they are told they aren’t allowed to build on areas of their own land because it’s protected wetlands … especially when they didn’t know they had on wetlands on the property.

I think we have some wetland way back in our woods … a small pond too, though I’ve never made it there through the brambles. It’s not a place I’d ever think to build anyway. They are an inconvenience and we have to work around them, but we protect them because we need them. And they need us.

Ogunquit, Maine: Sunrise, Sand, Rivers, Feathered and Other Friends – Marilyn Armstrong

Autumnal equinox in the northern latitudes. September. A week in Ogunquit, Maine. A tiny place but close to the beach and the river.

There are more people on the beach to see the dawn than I ever expected — there just for the peace and the beauty. Before the sun is up, the mist hangs on the sand.

Quiet this time of year. Most tourists are gone, now, so the streets aren’t crowded.

The moment there is a hint of sun, the mist disappears in a matter of seconds.

There is no more perfect time to be on the seashore of Maine than the very earliest part of Autumn.

Comes the sun …

If you are a photographer, you make take it as a sign that God loves you when having hauled your reluctant body out of bed while it’s still dark, then hike half a mile carrying all your gear to the beach while all the starving blood-sucking insects in the state gather to enjoy you as their breakfast buffet.

Suffer for your art? But you get a reward that is more than worth any and all of your efforts, because before you, as the mist burns away, a sunrise and a golden sun so breathtaking rises before you … and you are there and ready.

People of all ages walk along the water before dawn.

This is a day when your camera works perfectly, your batteries don’t run out, your lens is in perfect alignment, your eyes see and you capture exactly what you want to capture … and everything is in focus.

Then come the birds … terns, plovers, and gulls … Breakfast for the feathered residents.

Tiny plovers comfortably share the shore with one Great Black Backed Gull.

It doesn’t happen often. When it does, when it all comes together perfectly … then you must treasure it … savor it … and share it.

At times like these, it makes you remember why you started taking pictures in the first place.

The rising sun reflects on the sand as if it were polished glass.

That morning I discovered wet sand reflects light like a mirror. You can see the way the tide changes the shape of the sand along the shore.

The big seagull seems to be waiting for the sun to come up dissipating the last of the early mist.

The colors change from one second to the next.

Each moment is more beautiful than the one before it. Really, the entire time is probably no more than half an hour, but it’s a lifetime of beauty.

Then, final gold before full sunlight.

Later, I walked to the river and found this house. This is the Ogunquit River, just about a quarter of a mile before it joins the ocean. The house is virtually part of the river.

The only way I could find to get across the river to the house was by this “bridge,” really just a piece of wood across the rapids and falls. I declined to test it.

What happens in times of flood? Interesting place to build!

And finally, on my way back to our room, I found a hint of autumn near the beach in a small woodland area between the marsh and the shore.

LEDA AND THE SWAN – THE MUSICAL

Back in my bright college days, I was a music major. I hung out on the quad with other wannabe musicians on warm sunny days where we planned projects which would make us famous. Symphonies. Great achievements as conductors and composers though my class never produced anyone huge. Medium is as good as we got.

The Concept

My great project was going to be musical comedy based on the myth of Leda and the Swan.

In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces — or rapes – Leda. I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing being rape by a swan.

Zeus or not, swans are slow and clumsy on land, unlikely to successfully attack anyone or anything. Being heavy-bodied, they have trouble getting airborne. Without hands or arms, rape seems unlikely.

Leda becomes pregnant from the experience. She bears Helen and Polydeuces, both children of Zeus. Simultaneously (and I’d like to know how she managed this), she gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra – the offspring of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.

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Leda is able to convince her parents and husband that her extraneous pregnancy is not the result of a lover or promiscuity. “No! Honest to gods, really, no kidding, Mom, Dad, Tyndy … it was Zeus! Not some guy. He was a swan! Really.” Right.

The first … and perhaps my favorite scene … would have to be the first act closer. In this highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending lyric soprano rich with passion. In it, she explains that it really truly was Zeus.

I could imagine another hilarious show-stopping moment. The eggs. Her Zeus children are born as eggs. Who sat on the eggs? Did they build a nest on her throne? Did she get her ladies-in-waiting to sit on them while she did her Queen business?

Dialog Tidbit

Leda: The swan didn’t fool me. I knew it was Zeus. You all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird? No kidding. I wouldn’t lie to you.

Tyndareus, King of Sparta: I want to believe you, but I’m having some problems.

Leda: Trust me, dear. It was Zeus. As a swan. You know how tricky he is.

The All-Important Dream Ballet

In a brilliantly choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. Some of the technical aspects of the experience make interesting mental meanderings. How, exactly, did … well … ? It will make a heck of a scene.

How Many Curtain Calls?

I’m telling you — the audience will be on its collective feet! I can hear the applause already. I see the royalties rolling in.

Swan's Nest

I’m a bit long in the tooth now for to write a musical comedy, but I freely offer this incredible concept to anyone who wants to flush it out. It might launch more than one career.

You think?

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PASSAGE INTO SPRING

It is not the most snow we’ve ever had in a winter, at least not here in the Blackstone Valley. Nor was it the coldest winter we’ve had. Not even the coldest in memory. I remember a couple of January-s, when Kaity was only 6 or 7. We would wait for the school bus at the top of the drive. It was below zero at 7 in the morning. I’d warm up the car so we wouldn’t freeze solid before the bus arrived.

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Philosophical question: Why are school buses early when you are late, but always late when the weather is terrible? Just asking.

This may be the iciest winter I can remember. Or anyone can remember. We’ve had tons (literally) of sleet and ice layered over the snow to create the heaviest, most immovable mix on surfaces. This is the first time ever we’ve been completely trapped by the weather. Although the winter of 2011 when we had to shovel the roof to keep it from collapsing under the weight of snow came pretty close. This has been a good winter to be retired.

So it’s March now. This is the time of year where my yearning for spring goes into high gear. I believe that there are crocuses buried under that icy mess we humorously call a garden. By the time the ice melts, they’ll be long gone. We probably won’t see flowers until daffodils … April if we are lucky.

Mallard amid reflections of spring - Garry Armstrong

We all want a bit of warm sun. Spring is brief in this region and sometimes, it’s all torrential rain. Rising rivers. Flooded basements. Sodden ground.

Mud season. Muddy paws, muddy floors, sucking mud everywhere.

Our driveway used to be a seasonal stream, but the imbecile who built this house just paved it over. The stream doesn’t care whether it’s paved or not and when the spring rains and snow melt come, it returns to its original form and flows merrily down the driveway. It forms a little lake at the base of the driveway and a swamp in the backyard.

It used to turn the lower part of the house into a wading pool, but since Owen put in a sump and pump, we’ve managed to dodge the bullet. But we haven’t had the combination of heavy rain and snow melt in several years. With a little luck, we’ll skip it this year too.

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Spring will come. No matter how disgusting winter has been or how delayed, spring arrives and suddenly everything blooms. Literally between breakfast and supper, the trees come into leaf and the flowers open.

Two days later, the mercury rises into the 80s. Voila! Summer.

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A FOWL TRIPTYCH – GEESE V SWANS ON WHITINS POND

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

In a nutshell, a three-picture story is a way to help you think about storytelling with images. To create a three-picture story, gather:

  • An establishing shot: a broad photo of your subject.
  • A relationship: two elements interacting with one another.
  • A detail: a close-up of one part of your subject.

- – - – -

Last April, the geese made a play for ownership of what has always been swan territory by stealing the nest from a pair of swans. Geese live all over the valley. This area is a watershed, crisscrossed with  rivers, streams, ponds and marsh — perfect nesting grounds for water fowl. From herons and egrets, to swans and all kinds of ducks, water birds nest and live in the Valley.

Whitins Pond has for as long as we've lived in the valley been "swan territory."

Whitins Pond has, for as long as we’ve lived in the valley, been “swan territory.”

Herons, swans and geese get along fine with ducks … but not with each other. Herons are secretive and nest far from other birds, but swans and geese are forever encroaching on each others’ territory. For whatever the reason, these two species are enemies, even though they share space with other water birds without problems.

By some quirk of fate, Garry and I were there with our cameras to witness the battle. Talk about serendipity!

War! Swans try to rout invading geese!

War! Swans try to rout invading geese!

Despite a temporary setback, there’s a happy ending. Six young swans cruise with mama on Whitins Pond. The geese are not in evidence, but I’m sure they’ll try again. They are persistent.

It’s a big pond. They could just share, but apparently, they don’t want to. You’d have to ask them why not.

All's well that ends well. Mother and "teenage" swans cruise the pond. The nest was rebuilt and the swans are still the monarchs of their piece of the pond. It's a big pond, room for all.

All’s well that ends well. A new nest was built and another generation of young swans live on the pond.

Other Entries:

SEASONS OF SWANS – 2012 to 2013

This time of year, the swans are  huddled deep in leaves to keep warm. Today, it’s raining, washing away the snow cover and the bitter cold will not return for at least a few days. It will give the swans a breather. I hope they are able to survive this terrible cold we’ve been having. This is a year and a half of the swans on Whitins Pond.

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WEEKLY PHOTO CHALLENGE: BEGINNING — NEW DAY FOR A BLACK-BACKED GULL

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As the sun rises over a beach in Maine, it’s the beginning of a new day for a lone black-backed gull.

Related Posts:

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DAILY PROMPT: LOCALLY SPEAKING

This is about as local as I can get! All these were taken recently in Uxbridge in the Blackstone Valley. I wish I could add more, but this is enough for the servers to handle. Thank you prompters for giving me something to work with :-) Always looking for an excuse to post pictures of our beautiful town.

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CONFLICT AND CONCLUSION – THE BATTLE AT WHITINS POND

Oct 2012 - Swans

This was swan territory. Many geese live nearby on other ponds and along the banks of the many rivers and streams of the Blackstone River watershed. But this pond belonged to the swans and the swans and the geese, like the rival gangs in a turf war, don’t share.

The geese scouts are already in place, unbeknownst (apparently) to the swans.

Geese scouts watching

Swans will happily share their nesting grounds with ducks and divers. Herons pose a serious threat to smaller fowl (all fowl are smaller) because they will eat the eggs and (if they can get them) the young of ducks, geese and swans until the babies are big enough to defend themselves.

Herons are more solitary and like loons, build nests in places hard to find by people or and other birds.

Swan's Nest

This spring, the geese came to the pond. In an expansionist move that broke all previous treaties, they moved in and actually took over a nest belonging the a pair of lordly and bad-tempered swans. It was war. We were there when the geese conducted a surprise raid on the swans.

First assault on the nest

First, the geese surrounded the nest and infiltrated. Geese are faster, organized and more mobile than swans. Swans are bigger, heavier and hold grudges. Geese can take off and land easily from almost anywhere, land or water. Swans need a long running start across flat water to get airborne. They are virtually helpless on land, bodies so heavy they can barely waddle. They are disorganized. Swans aren’t good rank and file soldiers, but they compensate with long memories and seriously bad attitudes.

The geese surrounded the nest while one of the two swans was away. The timing was good for the geese. With only one swan to defend against the attack, the lone swan was out-flanked.

Swan defends

The battle continued while papa swan paddles back to the nest. But he’s taking far too long.

Battle rages Swans V Geese

Battle Rage Swans V Geese

The odds are not with the swan, alone, defending her turf. Where’s her partner? Paddling like mad, but he was on the far side of the pond … and will not be back in time.

So what happened? We came back. There were no sign of geese, but the swans were still there. They must have rebuilt a nest elsewhere, because there were more than the usual number of cygnets.

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Feeding happily, sharing space with Mama Duck and her ducklings.

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Taking the family for a stroll while papa duck keeps watch o’er the ramparts. No geese here!

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The kids venture out on their own. They are now big enough to defend themselves and are likely to survive to maturity. It’s not, mind you, that I have anything against the geese. But they have taken over the majority of ponds and lakes in the valley. There are far fewer sites where swans breed. If they can’t share space — and clearly, they can’t — than I’d prefer this place for swans and ducks.

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THE SILENCE OF THE …

Bedroom light

Sunrise. The first rays of the sun sneak through the trees, then slither through the bedroom window. Why does our bedroom face east? I love sunlight, but not quite so early.

Ah the peace, the tranquility of living in the country. No cars, no sirens. Just the whisper of wind … and … what’s that? Birds? Sweet singers … what? Is that a crow? A blue jay? What is that screeching out there? Squirrels? What is it, squirrel versus bird Armageddon? What’s going on out there.

Walk, walk, walk. Open window. Peer out. Holy Moly! It really is the squirrels against the birds and they seem to be battling over possession of … our deck? What, with a zillion acres of woods, you guys are fighting over our deck? It’s OUR deck. You can’t have it. Neither of you.

“Hey,” I shout, “Shut up. Go home. Fight somewhere else.”

Squawk, screech, ark, screeeech!!

And from the rear, I hear the sound I dread, a dog singing. It’s our little dachshund, shrieking in an ear-splitting soprano. Hark! Is that a deeper call?

Yes, Bishop, the big heap of fur Aussie is chiming in. Now, another voice is heard. One of the terriers (Bonnie? Nan?) has added her sweet voice to the chorus. It’s downright majestic.

Bishop

It’s 6 in the morning. I didn’t fall asleep until after three. Why do you guys hate me? I’m the one who gives you cookies. Don’t I get a little credit for that?

“Hey, shush. Settle down.”

But instead, the melodious howls change to yaps, barks, woofs. They want me to get up and give them cookies. Now please. They are starving, so hungry they can barely stay upright on their weak little paws.

My husband is sleeping soundly. He is deaf and his hearing aids are not in while he sleeps, so he hears nothing. Good night, sweet prince.

I love the quiet, the soft silence of the countryside. Don’t you?