The Gifts of the Great Blue Heron and the Great Blues Man

(Note – this story may mean more to you if you’ve read my previous blog, The Gift of the Osprey.)

The morning of May 15th, 2015, I was awakened by a call from an old friend, with the sad news that B.B. King had died the night before. I knew he’d been sick, and that he was at home in hospice at 89. Still, having known him and his amazing resilience since 1978, it didn’t seem possible. It was always a long time between our visits, yet, like his song said, it somehow happened that “There is always one more time.” But no more.

001-001I was glad I had plans for coffee with friends and then riding with my dear friend Mary on her great horses. No time for grief. Coming home, I feared it would hit me, and decided to walk around the yard looking for fawns or morels, since it was the season for both. I didn’t see either, but there was a doe, just west of my little wooden bridge. She was not alarmed at all, until she saw little black Lucky and heard her meowing. Then she came toward us – 10 feet, then another 10 feet. Hmm. I let Lucky in the house. The doe was calmer now, and I wondered if she was looking for a spot to drop a fawn. When she lifted her leg and licked back there, I was hopeful. There’s nothing like birth to take the sting out of death.

I walked down to the shore, and there came a great blue heron from across the lake. As it flew over my head, I clearly saw a gap in its wing. It was missing a feather or two. I smiled and thought, if any bird could represent the spirit of the King of the Blues, it would be GREAT and BLUE, flying around the world. Was this one blessing me? Had it dropped me a feather, as the osprey did? I never found the heron’s feather, but when I saw the many tributes online and on television, and heard that Mr. King’s downloads had increased 10,000% in one day, I knew. Just as the osprey told me Mom would keep blessing me when she’s gone, B.B. King would keep blessing us all with his music and his words. And now he was as free as this beautiful bird.

The next morning, I could see the answer to my prayer from the living room window. A new fawn, just 15 feet from the deck. The doe was back in her spot by the bridge, happily chewing her cud.

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Four months later, September 16th, would have been B.B.’s 90th birthday. I was looking for the best way to celebrate and honor him. The Heritage Blues Band at the Dakota? To Kill a Mockingbird at the Guthrie? I was feeling sad, hot, and undecided. Time to jump in the lake. I did.

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But nearing the middle, I saw a great blue heron on the other shore. Could it be the one that flew over when B died? Could I possibly get a picture to share? My mind whispered, “Please stay” as I swam back to my shore. Herons are so shy, I knew it was unlikely, but I had to try. I ran up the hill, grabbed my camera and binoculars, and ran back down to my canoe. He was still there. “Thank you!”

I paddled quietly, keeping my eye on the long-legged bird, fighting the wind and taking pictures as I went. Long distance was better than nothing, and he was not likely to let me get very close. They never do.

089But this one did. I approached so very slowly, stopping often to take pictures, and to study him through the binoculars. But also to just gaze, to connect, unseparated by lenses or screens. To be still, and to say a silent “Thank you! You’re beautiful! I love you!” He was serene, though the wind ruffled his feathers as he preened himself. He showed me the soft secrets under his wings while he soaked up the sun (and under his tail as he jabbed at frogs!) Wonderful. Yes, he filled me with wonder. I paddled closer until I was only about 50′ from him. Still, he seemed not to care.

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The clouds rolled in and made the sky even more lovely. Only when it began to rain did my new friend take off for the other side of the lake. There, he danced on the shore and waved his magnificent wings high in the air, the soft light bringing out his many blues. Was he rejoicing in the cooling rain as much as I was? Then he disappeared. I didn’t see him fly off, so I paddled to the spot where he had stood just a moment ago. Perhaps he was hunkered down in the long reeds, but I sure couldn’t see him. Did he evaporate, as the deer so often do, into the woods?

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Wherever he was, it was okay. He’d given me much more than I expected, and it was time to go in. Happily. I looked at my camera. It had been an hour and ten minutes, and he’d granted me 104 pictures and ten videos. (I smile as I recall how incredibly patient B.B. was with millions of fans begging for pictures with him over seventy years – me included!) I was glad I hadn’t planned to go to the play and missed this special time. I still could have gone to the Dakota, but I had no need to. I knew I was where I was supposed to be, celebrating B as he would have liked, and I just wanted to savor it some more.

The rain and wind were marvelously cool and soft, and I felt the same.

067I couldn’t wait to call my mother. She was delighted to hear about the heron, and felt that B must have sent it for me. I swear, I’ll never have anyone who listens to my adventures and is as happy for me as Mom is. And no one like B and his extraordinary music, wisdom, and stories, either. But I will have the children of Mother Nature to comfort and teach me. Who knows where these graceful spirits in fur and feathers come from, or why? No matter. There is some kind of magic there. They are – full of grace – great, great blessings for which I am grateful beyond words.

In this time of holiday hustle and bustle, of shopping and bopping through screens and stores, I wish you the best of all gifts – family, friends, music, and quiet times close to the earth.

The Gift of the Osprey

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Mom was okay when I accepted the gracious invitation to join friends in St. Augustine for my birthday and Connie’s 90th. How could I have known that she’d take a turn for the worse two weeks before I left? I agonized over leaving, but she and my siblings insisted I go. The truth was, she had been closer to death several times before. I recalled my desperation 13 years earlier when a quadruple bypass left her on the brink for days. “Please! I’m not ready to lose her!” My prayer was answered. The glue they used on her bursting artery worked, and she lived. But 9 years later, with pneumonia and her heart condition, she refused treatment and convinced us all that she was truly ready to join Dad in heaven. We respected her wishes, but it was still not her time. She was disappointed when she graduated from hospice. Now, 4 years later, having dementia added to the burden of pain, she was desperate to leave. We understood, and made sure her doctors and nurses were prepared to keep her comfortable, but forgo any efforts to extend her life.

She improved, and was stable, but I wondered if this would be our last good-bye. As hard as it was, our tears were sprinkled with smiles and laughter as we agreed we had left nothing unsaid. That our thank yous and I love yous had been plenty. That we’d been blessed with the best friendship a mother and daughter could have. Still…

But when I got off the plane into Florida’s green January, it felt like stepping into another dimension, and I knew I’d made the right decision. Maybe it would even make it easier for Mom to leave this earth, without me and my tears there holding her back. When I spoke to her on the phone, her voice was weak, but she was happy that I was there in the warm sun.

Then something happened that I thought was just another moment with nature, but turned out to be more, at least in my heart and mind. As I walked to to the beach, a huge osprey flew right over me with a big bloody fish in his talons, landing on a nearby utility pole. Wow. I was so glad I had my camera in my pocket! I took a few shots, then tip-toed in closer and captured video as he spread his awesome wings, balancing against the wind as he waited for the fish to give up the fight and become lunch – fresh sushi! (I say “he” with confidence only now, having learned that female ospreys have a necklace of brown feathers, which he lacked.)

I walked happily back to the beach house, anxious to tell my friends about my luck. Maxine said she wasn’t surprised. “You draw wildlife to you.” We watched the video on my camera, and saw a feather fall from the bird’s tail. “I need to go find it!”

I looked for the feather under the pole, but with the wind madly shifting directions, who knew where it might have landed? As I searched, picturing the feather being blown from the bird, I suddenly remembered what had happened 11 days earlier.

I was walking down by the Minnesota River when a young bald eagle flew over me. I always loved sharing my sightings with Mom, so I stopped at her nursing home and told her, adding that Native Americans say the eagle is blessing you when it flies over. She shared my excitement, as always. Then I asked her, “When you’re an angel, will you fly over me and bring me a blessing?” She beamed and said “Yes, I will!” I told her to drop a feather so I’d know it was her.

My heart skipped a beat. Was that osprey sent by Mom to bless me? Had she finally gotten her wish? Was she an angel? Now I had to find the feather. I searched earnestly, almost desperately. Finally, there it was, lying on the sand, making me softly gasp when it came into view, more beautiful than I expected with its distinctive, gently curving dark and light stripes. My eyes welled with gratitude as I reached down, picked it up, and kissed it.

As I walked slowly back toward the beach, the osprey came back and circled over me. “Thank you!” I whispered up to him. I walked back down the beach, wondering if Mom had died. But the sand was radiant and the breeze cool, and somehow, I didn’t feel sad or afraid.

We had our lunch and took pictures, and Connie opened her cards. While others said their good-byes, I slipped outside and called my brother James. “Did Mom die this morning?” Silence. “You’re supposed to be on vacation. I’m not supposed to tell you… but she’s having lunch with Teresa, so no, I’m sure I’d have heard if she died.” We laughed. I told him what had happened, and asked him to tell Mom about the osprey dropping a feather, and that I was waiting for hers. He said it would be an eagle when it was Mom.

So Mom didn’t get her wish. But I did get a blessing. Now, when I think of Mom dying, I’m not as afraid. I see her free as a bird – that majestic bird – and just as beautiful and powerful. Pain-free and happy. And I know, whether or not she drops me a feather, that she will continue to bless me. For she gave me care and lessons and memories and love that will stay with me every day of my life, until I get to be a bird and fly away to join her.

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© 2015 Holly Jorgensen and Northern Holly Creations

Spring Cleaning for Mother Nature’s Mood Swings

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Brrrr! It’s Friday morning and 19 degrees windchill!

Was the 84 degree temp on Wednesday just an April Fool’s joke?

Spring

Ah, the smell of mud and moss

The crocuses are coming!

Night is filled with a chorus of frogs

and the squawking of geese,

calling their kin from the south.

The resident beavers,

freed from beneath their glass ceiling,

reclaim the lake

and answer my playful warnings with their own.

Painted turtles do a dance—he tickles her chin.

They come to my canoe and look right up at me.

Are they too sleepy to be afraid,

or too much in love?

Bluebirds have already claimed house #40.

Miss Lilac prepares to unfurl her green flags,

while the pussy willows fluff up their furry tails.

It’s all so exciting!

If only there were not that ominous

something wrong.

The frightening math

of 81 degrees

on the 26th of March

at the 45th parallel.

( ©March 26, 2007     Holly Jorgensen)

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That was eight years ago. We Minnesotans still love our warm spring days. But now we know they are not just anecdotes, or the stuff of poems. They are breaking records, yet are only mild examples of the extremes happening world-wide. The science is indisputable – climate change is here, wreaking all kinds of havoc with our planet and our economies. The good news is that fewer people are wasting energy denying the facts and more are investing in energy-saving and carbon-reducing technologies. For 3 minutes of entertaining good news on global innovations, click here. http://climaterealityproject.org/video/good-news

We can’t all replace our old windmills with turbines, but we can all do something. Recycling is a start. If you’re busy with spring cleaning and wondering what to do with the excess stuff so many of us have, or if you actually need some things but would rather not buy new and feed the engines of over-consumption and pollution, you might enjoy reading my blog of last April, Free Stuff at the Curbside Boutique! It’s April again and pick-ups start soon in many communities. If you’re not quite ready for cruising the curbs, the church rummage sales are right around the corner, and the second-hand stores are brimming with gifts from other people purging. Whether you donate your cast-offs or shop second-hand, you are spring-cleaning more than your own little habitat. You’re helping to reduce waste on the planet and taking a small step toward stability in the weather, and perhaps in your own wallet. Have fun!

The Gift of the Buck

The Gift of the Buck

Step Into the Light

 

My dear friend Mary asked if I would help serve dinner at a homeless shelter. Sure, why not? And I was excited when she invited me to sit in with her band. But I didn’t realize the dinner was the day after the gig, or that we had to make dinner and bring it, for 50 people. Oh, well. At least I could volunteer for salad, and avoid making the casseroles.

It had been years since I’d sung with a band, so I was a bit nervous, but the music flowed, and we all had fun. After the long drive home, it was going on midnight and I went from wired to tired. But the next day was going to be full, so before I could hit the sack, I had to wash, dry, rip and re-package twenty heads of romaine lettuce, toast a couple pounds of almonds, wash apples, and cut red onions. A small thing, considering how blessed I was compared to those who would eat this simple meal. And yet, though I hate to admit it, I was feeling a bit grumpy as I bumbled around the kitchen.

Then the familiar motion-detector light on the garage caught my eye, and there it was – this stunning buck, watching me as I gazed at him. Thank you, I thought, almost holding my breath. I’m so glad I’m up and in the kitchen!

I told myself not to even think of getting my camera. Just soak in these magic moments. I did. Then I realized my camera was right behind me. Luck on top of luck! Even as I took a step back, then closer to the window, and took picture after picture, the buck was unconcerned, keeping an eye on me between nibbles of dried-up garden.

The light went out. I suspected he came through the arbor and down the steps into the grassier yard, as the fawns and their mothers often did. I couldn’t resist going to the door and slowly opening it. I should have known he would bound off through the darkness, unseen. But just hearing his hooves hit the ground and feeling his presence without walls, windows, and camera between us made my heart beat faster. Would he come back? Maybe he was one of the fawns born in my yard over the years, returning to a place that felt safe, on this, the first day of hunting season.

I went back to work on the lettuce, but my tiredness and resentment had vanished. All I felt was wonder and gratitude, and all I saw was that picture of grace.

© 2014 Holly Jorgensen

 

 

 

Free Stuff at the Curbside Boutique!

Mom, Totem Pole, Holly & Lucky

One of my more exciting Curbside Boutique finds, after quite a bit of renovation

Besides people spring cleaning and putting things in the alley, many communities have organized curbside pickups on Saturday mornings. That means Fridays draw people like me to pick up treasures. This saves the cities some work and means more is salvaged and less gets crushed in the jaws of garbage trucks and goes to landfills. Junking is definitely becoming cool, so if you’re ready to try your luck, here’s my advice.

First, a couple of cautionary notes. Before you start, think safety. Children, rescuers, and haulers are vulnerable to broken glass, sharp metal, moldy or contaminated garbage. Yes, there IS some real trash out there with the treasures, and it belongs in closed containers. Let’s not scatter it and give authorities a reason to ban the practice of salvage—it’s a win-win if done right.

If you’re the one with things to discard, don’t assume everything useful will be rescued—it won’t. Check your community’s Green Guide or contact www.gooddonor.org for organizations that will pick up donations and leave a receipt for tax deductions. What a deal! If you use open boxes or clear plastic bags, rescuers won’t open them unless they see something they want. Appliances? Attaching a note about whether or not it works is extremely helpful and appreciated. Salvagers—please don’t cut the cords. Give it a chance to be used or repaired, or recycled by the city.

Now for the fun! Bring gloves and some tools. You may find a great thing attached to a not-so-great thing by a few screws. A measuring tape helps with large items as well as those jeans—(you don’t have to pay high prices for holes and fringe!) since there won’t be a dressing room out there. Of course, if you pick up all the good clothing and bring it to a homeless shelter, you’ll feel even better than when you find something for yourself.

Go ahead—invite your neighbor with his SUV, and provide a day of “meaningful” work for the much-maligned vehicle. My multimillionaire friend offered to take me in her brand-new truck, and we had a ball—both cruising and talking about it later. I still have the marble table we found—thank goodness we had four hands and a 4×4!

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This year’s favorite find: a nicely weathered fence, (cut into pieces for easy transport) which I will re-connect around my compost pile

 

This is a great place for the waterless hand cleaners, but I also bring my water bottle and an old towel. A few snacks and a fitting soundtrack adds a picnic flair to your outing, but keep the volume down. Oh, and don’t forget to bring the new, healthier and truer American mindset: you’re not cheap—you’re resourceful—saving money while saving the earth.

The most important tools of all? A smile, a sense of humor, and gratitude. Take these and I can almost guarantee you some good stories. But leave your judgment at home. If you’re willing to accept this manna from heaven, accept that the angels who put it there have any number of reasons for living the way they do and letting their lives spill out onto the curb.

© 2014 Holly Jorgensen, Northern Holly Creations

(For more on the Curbside Boutique, read my article, Oh, the things you’ll find at the Curbside Boutique)

Thank you, Minnesota Women’s Press

for including my essay in your April issue. You also gave me the incentive I needed to get my website up and running!

Here’s the essay, and the link to it in the Women’s Press e-edition. Read it there, or here, or pick up a free print copy at your library or other news stands.

Frugally Rich and Green – Minnesota Women’s Press, April 2014, p 31

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I relish the deep freedom I’ve found – from debt, worry, and the pressure to keep up with the Joneses
–Holly Jorgensen

Frugally Rich and Green
Holly Jorgensen

Other little girls learned to scream at the sight of spiders, but I was lucky. My father pointed out the beneficial beauty of a black-and-yellow spider catching bugs in her web.

When we stayed at a rustic little cabin, I fell in love with the rough wood covered in vines and surrounded by quiet. As a teenager canoeing in the Boundary Waters, I was awed by the stunning attire of loons and formed friendships with fellow paddlers, which disproved the importance of fancy clothes and popular styles.

Now, living on a tiny lake, I swim through water lilies that keep it clean; I find tiny fawns among wildflowers; I am blessed daily by the gifts of Mother Nature.

It’s not surprising that I strive to live lightly on the Earth, so as not to destroy what I love most. Growing up on rummage sales, I became an expert scavenger. I relish the deep freedom I’ve found – from debt, worry and the pressure to keep up with the Joneses.

Decades of observing “trash” have helped me see the incredible waste inherent in our consumer culture – the resources that go into the gazillions of things that build profits but that contribute little to our well-being, quickly ending up in landfills.

Sitting on the high, tiny deck I call my “tree house,” I feel the breeze of wings on my cheek. A hummingbird hovers at my feeder, fueling up for its thousand-mile journey to survive the winter. I marvel at its efficient use of a bit of nectar. But I can’t ignore the community of ants inside the feeder, drifting in various stages of sugar intoxication, blind to the warning from the dead bodies floating around them. The irresistible abundance of the sweet life seduces them; they find themselves drowning in their own gluttony and fouling their beautiful world.

We can do better.

By saying “Whoa!” to the cult of accumulation and “Aah, yes!” to simplicity and sustainability, we can become more truly ourselves, rather than cogs in the wheels of consumption and waste. Resting gratefully in the bosom of sufficiency, we can revel in the treasures of nature.

Holly Jorgensenspeaks on “Saving Money, the Planet, and Your Sanity” and is writing “Free, Green, and Frugally Rich-Scenes From a Joyful Life.” hollyonthelake.com

Welcome to my world

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Thanks to Carol Gillen for taking this photo of me and the latest stray kitten.

            Thank you for visiting my site! I’ll keep this first post simple, and hope you’ll explore the pages and give me your thoughts.  

I just had a lovely walk around my little lake in the winter wonderland left by the snowstorm. Beautiful! It recalls the card Mom and I made and sent for the holidays this year.

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Seasons come, seasons go      

Time to rest, time to grow        

Secrets hidden under snow            

Bless us bye and bye        

 

Beauty and blessings to you in 2014 

                                                                                      Holly