Farewell to the Winter of Covid

Greenie and Slim are back! The crocuses are blooming! I’ll be fully vaccinated soon. But before joyfully moving on, I think it’s worth reflecting on the extraordinary winter we’ve been through. Have you been perfecting a skill? Mine is procrastination. But I did find myself capturing images that spoke to me in poems. These are in the order I wrote them. I hope you’ll make it to the final pictures, as they will surely bring a smile to your face.

b&w photo of woman and dog in park
December 30, 2020

Sometimes
The picture you took
Lacks the clarity and color
Of your favorite photos
But holds a memory
Or mood
Perfectly
Gently
As if painted
With a soft brush
And ashes
                         HJ
Leo in candlelight
December 31, 2020

Romance does not require a lover.
It appears whenever we marvel at the mysteries of love and beauty.
                                                                                            HJ
blazing sun setting on gray day
January 1, 2021
Sometimes
at the end of a cold, gray day
or year
if you walk a little higher
and search the horizon
you can catch the sun
Blazing
as it peeks out
below the ominous cover of clouds
and declares
“Don’t worry
I’m still here!”
before slipping off
to light someone else’s day
and let you rest
                                HJ
golden frosty grasses
frosty grasses
sunrise of compassion
January 31, 2021
Must all the straw be spun to gold
while children shiver in the cold? 
A Midas touch is not so much 
a blessing as a curse
if all the gold is in the purse
of just the lucky few
and receipt is built upon deceit.
What good are rising stalks and stocks 
when grown from earth that cries and dies 
in flame and flood and choking spew?

Let the sunrise of compassion
warm the frosty hearts and clear the eyes
too long believing lies 
of diamonds in the skies 
when all we really need is love and will
to share the health and wealth,
to sow and grow in moral measures, 
respect all colors, babes to elders, 
our precious once and future treasures.
                                                  HJ
rose breasted grosbeak
February 14, 2021
Love Story

"Will you be my Valentine?"
Yes, said the bird who unabashedly wears his heart on his breast.
snowman waving
"Will you be my Valentine?"
Yes, said the waving snowman, belonging to no-one and everyone.
injured hawk
"Will you be my Valentine?" asked the young red-tailed hawk, lying face-down in the snow. He perked up in the warmth of my home, giving me hope overnight. The Raptor Center did what they could, but sometimes the love that is needed is the hardest love to give. 
deer in arbor lights
 
"Will you be my Valentine?"
Yes, said the deer, posing in the dusk to warm my heart on this frigid night.          
                                                                                           HJ
March 13, 2021 
How I survived the Winter of Covid

I must confess ‘twas a walk in the park
almost daily ‘tween dawn and dark
no mask did I need in the wide open spaces
with six feet between the smiles on the faces
of people who passed me, happy to be
escaping the lockdown, totally free
but the moments that made my weary heart dance
were the dozens of dogs I met by chance
romping in snow, wagging a tail 
eager to sniff out any new trail 
but happy to stop and give me some Love 
and Joy and Hope and evidence of 
the truth in the saying, as souls are changed,
that DOG is surely GOD rearranged
                                                             HJ

A Silver Seal, Marvelous Mermaids, and a Few Florida Friends

Before we get to the story of my encounter with these Marvelous Mermaids, I’m happy to announce my good news. Although some of last spring’s seals were rather silvery . . .

. . . this is my new silver seal, awarded to Enchanted by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association. I’m honored, and grateful for all the support my baby is getting. Please check the menu to order it, complete with silver seal! But don’t forget to enjoy the new story and pictures below.

To learn more about my life and book, tune in to TPT 2-2 to watch me expertly interviewed by Mary Hanson! 6:30 PM Mothers’ Day, (May 12th) and 12:30 AM, 6:30 AM, and 12:30 PM on Sunday, May 19th.

Marvelous Mermaids

When my friend Julie invited me to share her Florida vacation, I jumped at the chance. Just relaxing and spending time with my dear log-cabin-days friend and her daughter, Laura, would be enough, but I always hope to experience a new animal or two when I travel. So when my cousin Tammy invited us up to Crystal River to snorkel with manatees, we couldn’t pass up the chance to see these gentle giants. Though their numbers have increased in recent years, they are still a threatened species.

Since they are protected, we got strict orders from our captains about entering the water quietly and not approaching the manatees, but to just follow our guide in hopes of seeing one. I did, and was delighted to see my first huge manatee up close. Then another. But wanting others to also get the chance, I kept a little distance, watching through my goggles and sending good thoughts his or her way. “Thank you,” “I love you,” and “I’m sorry about the propeller scars on your back.” I hoped people would learn to slow down and be more careful as they navigated the rivers and bays. Then I went off on my own and just floated, content to breathe through the snorkel and watch the bottom of the shallow river.

Then I felt something . . . rubbing my belly. What? Was another snorkeler under me? No. It was a manatee. It had come from behind my feet, slowly making its way up my belly, until I saw, only inches from my face, the leathery gray back with tiny hairs, then the tail. Since it had stroked my belly, I had to reach out and gently touch it before this ten-foot “sea cow” was gone, to say Thank you! Of course I couldn’t take pictures, so thanks to the US Fish and Wildlife Service for the one above.

The next day, we went to Fiesta Beach, where I joyously dove into the ocean and met a very friendly nine-year-old girl with long black hair. She was as delighted playing in the cold waves as I was. Within minutes, out of the blue, she asked me “Are there really mermaids?” I had to hesitate before answering. I told her about the manatee, and that they were originally mistaken for mermaids. I added that I had often been called a mermaid, because I feel so at home and enchanted in the water, so maybe she was one, too? Seeing a manatee, it’s easy to assume those early sailors had to be love-starved and sun-stroked to mistake them for pretty women. But surely their gentle disposition warrants a bit of fondness and fantasy.

Before we plunge into my pictures of Florida’s wildlife, I feel compelled to add a detail that I left out of my newsletter. The sweet, vibrant, warm, young mermaid with whom I shared more than a few minutes of joyful play and talk also told me that she had come from Venezuela, “because people were killing each other and there wasn’t enough food.” Sigh. I had felt I deserved a vacation after my long marathon of the book–the book I chose to write and self-publish. How much more did she deserve the cleansing balm of the waves and sun after the unchosen darkness she had lived through. I knew no more of her circumstances, but when she introduced me to her parents on the beach, I was relieved to know that she would not also have to endure the scarring trauma of separation from them.

This sunset greeted me as I arrived in Florida.

I love winter, but it was nice to see white beauty that wasn’t snow!
What’s this spider monkey on Monkey Island thinking?
Pelicans everywhere!
Fiesta Beach. Sunsets and waves have a way of turning strangers into friends.
Some day I’d love to ride on the beach, but I was happy just to capture this scene.
I was thrilled to catch a dolphin’s smile on Venice Beach.
I can still walk the rocks with the shorebirds, but carefully!
True, I have empathy for fish since getting to know some, but egrets gotta eat.
Kayaking in Robinson Preserve with Cindy and Julie — Fun!

This double crested cormorant welcomed us to the . . .
. . . mystical mangrove tunnel.
A yellow crowned night heron intent on catching . . .
. . . a mangrove tree crab.
Florida’s little blue heron in a lovely mangrove setting.
Anole lizards are everywhere, and well camouflaged,
until they want to be seen by a girl!
Another well-disguised critter — the nanday parakeet. 
My yard will never be as well-groomed as the famous Marie Selby Gardens . . .
. . . with trees covered in brilliant blossoms . . .
. . . and delicate orchids . . .
. . . but one can find peace in the heart of any flower . . .
. . . or the veins of a single leaf.