A Smoky August Moon

Smoky sunrise on the morning of the August full moon

The Great Dismal Swamp in southeastern Virginia and northeastern North Carolina is on fire.  An acreage the size of Williamsburg is burning, and is likely to continue to burn for weeks or months.  The smoke is so voluminous that it can be seen in satellite photos from space.  And this morning, in the early hours, the winds brought that smoke to our town.

In the night, we awoke to the smell of it: campfire and peat, filling the house.  At dawn, we saw it at last, blanketing the lake, encircling the trees and houses, and screening the sun, which shone red from behind.  Shepherding breezes have prodded much of the smoke onward over the course of the morning, though some haziness and much of its scent still lingers.

We wonder what tonight’s full moon will be like.

The August moon is often known as the Dog Days Moon.  The name has origins with the Greeks and Romans, who termed the summer days when the dog star, Sirius, and the sun rose simultaneously in the sky as the Dog Days of Summer, since the event typically occurred between July and September and coincided with the hottest part of the season.  It’s interesting to note that this simultaneous rising of Sirius and the sun no longer comes at summer’s peak due to shifts in the Earth’s axis of rotation – and, hence, the dates of the equinoxes – that have occurred since Roman times.

Enjoy the full moon, and remember to kick back to breathe easy on this Code Red day, southeastern Virginia friends!


Of Red Mushrooms


After days of rain, fungi have begun popping up all around!  This bright one pushed its way through the moss of our backyard overnight.

For quite a while, Bennett has been fixated on the red-capped mushroom on his activity bar (as this video taken a couple months ago attests).  But the little guy above is his first glimpse of a real one!


Cicada Moon

May’s full moon may be called the Flower Moon or Milk Moon by others, but to us, this year, it is the Cicada Moon!  The 13-year periodical cicadas are in full troubadour mode, filling our neighborhood with the sound of their courting song (which is so loud, it has been mistaken for a car alarm or roaring generator by more than one Williamsburg resident).

Matt took the video above.  In it, you can hear the cicadas’ mating call: one long, high, whirring note, sung all day long, audible even inside the house.  And see those specks flitting between the tree leaves?  Those are cicadas!

Ah, the sound of romance!  And on the full moon, at that!


The Beaver Is Back!

Last year, as you might recall, we caught a beaver in action down by the lake.  Since the fateful night when we watched as he felled a tree in our backyard, we’d seen neither hide nor hair of the little guy, nor further evidence of his tree-chomping ways.

But yesterday, Matt called from the back steps, “I think I see the beaver swimming in the lake!”  By the time I joined Matt on the porch, all that remained of the beaver’s progress through the water were ripples on the surface.  We put Bennett in his wool hat (it was coolish) and into the sling, and off we went to investigate.

Turns out, down near the shore, the beaver has been busy sharpening his (or her) teeth!  The photo above shows a large tree he’d been working on — we think he realized he’d quite literally been trying to bite off more than he could chew.  (That, or he was just hungry for bark alone.)  But the littler trees below were no match for him!

Our fingers are crossed for another sighting…


Dogwoods in Bloom

having no thought
we’ve come to see them -
dogwoods in bloom

- Michael McClintock

Cornus florida, Flowering Dogwood


Walking in Season: December 2010

December!  The final installment of Walking in Season for 2010.  What an amazing year it has been, full of change and growth in every area of this little family’s life.  The wonderful thing about change is that the more you do it, the easier it gets.  The more you embrace it, the more fun it becomes.  These truths — and the truth that everything new is hard at first but becomes easier with practice — are perhaps my biggest lessons of the year.  And to think: it only took three decades of living for me to learn them! ;)

This morning, December dawned cloudy, a cold front moving through.  Gray skies and wind.  The warm, gorgeous autumn days that lingered throughout November have yielded to something wintrier — and more befitting of the holiday spirit that is evident everywhere around us.

Darkness comes early now, and we find ourselves falling naturally into our winter schedule, cued by the light: dinner by 5:00, screens (laptops, television, phones) off by 9:30, asleep by 10:00!  I must say: in no season do I sleep as well, or as long, as I do in wintertime.  It is undeniable: my Circadian clock (and body and mind) are powerfully tied to the available daylight, and in winter, my only option is to embrace their dictate that bedtime come early.  A rule I am not the least bit sad to follow, especially in these last pre-newborn weeks!

The final month of this pregnancy is proving such a special time.  Matt and I are filled with wonder and anticipation, and it feels as though the whole world is filled with wonder and anticipation alongside us!  Goodwill, cheer, and beauty abound.  December, I am finding, is an excellent time to round out a baby.

That said, this month is also a month for finding and celebrating light in darkness.  The winter solstice — the longest night of the year — visits us on December 21.  If you find yourself feeling less than merry as that natural holiday approaches, treat yourself to a noontime walk, sans sunscreen or sunglasses, to lift your spirits (and your Vitamin D levels).  Fresh air and sunshine (even the wan light of December) always work a special magic on the heart.

And, without further ado: December’s Walking in Season Photos.  The full year of photos can be viewed here.

Stop 1. Looking back on the photos of this spot over the year, we were surprised to see how many months it looks just like this: brown and dormant.

Stop 1.5. Gray skies, black water.

Stop 2. I enjoy this spot this most in the cold months.  The tree trunks are like sculpture.

Stop 3. Peak fall color came mid-month last month.  November 1, these trees were green; by December 1, the leaves had turned and fallen.

Stop 4. No turtles today!  Just ducks.  This stop is my favorite, I do think.


Indian Corn, Rainy Day

In our neck of the woods: lots of family in town (my mom, Matt’s mom, and tonight, my sister!), lots of bustling about, and lots of excitement, too!  The Moms have been busily preparing for the baby shower on Saturday, shopping and planning and conducting secret closed-door meetings about all the details.  Oh, the suspense!

Yesterday,  fall decorations were procured to welcome shower guests:  bunches of Indian corn to flank the front door, and a passel of pumpkins to post at the front steps.  (Heads up, Williamsburg readers: Fresh Market‘s got large pumpkins at 3 for $10, and jumbo ones for 2 for $10 — a good deal!)

It’s been a rainy day here, lending a nice autumn chill to the air and a soft light to cozy the house.  Hope you’re having a cozy day, too!


The Cackle of Grackles

Our yard is a good spot for bird-watching: swans, herons, ospreys, owls, woodpeckers, robins, sparrows, finches, egrets, ducks, and this morning, grackles — several hundred of them, in fact!

I grabbed the closest camera — our little point-and-shoot — and, from our second-story window, caught the tail end of their cacophonous visit.  The video quality is not the best, and sadly does not catch the sound of their chattering, but it’s still a nice little record of their riotous-if-fleeting presence here.

Grackles gather in large multi-species flocks, and we did spot a cowbird in today’s mob.  Grackles from the northern U.S. and Canada fly south to overwinter in the southern U.S.  We aren’t sure whether today’s flock were northerners newly-arrived in town for the winter, or locals simply on the hunt for a good breakfast.

Grackles are considered nuisance birds by many folks (the damage they can do to crops, especially corn, is quite astonishing).  But they have lovely yellow eyes and feathers that shine a beautiful iridescent blue-purple, and for that I find them fantastic.  Learn all about them here!


Secondhand is Grand

Yesterday, my mother and her partner arrived in town for a visit: a Southern stop on their grand new RV adventure.  With them, they brought the gift of a dresser from their old life.  It’s a perfect fit to the baby’s new life.  The filling of the drawers has already begun!

For children’s clothing, Matt and I are big fans of secondhand goods in 100% cotton — so many great deals to be had!  Since we’re waiting until the birth to learn whether the baby is a boy or a girl, for now, unisex clothing is the name of the game.

We are actually thankful for this gender-neutral requirement!  In a world so full of beguiling baby goods, it keeps our preparatory spending in check, and ensures that much of what we buy can — with luck — be used again for baby #2 someday.

In our shopping, we’ve also been limiting ourselves to clothing for the very first weeks and months.  Some of the most frequent advice we’ve been given by other parents is not to stock up on too many baby clothes ourselves, as they are a gift that the baby is likely to receive in abundance!

When we were in upstate New York recently, we took advantage of two consignment shops there: this one, where you can peruse big bins of onesies priced at 3 for $1, and this one, which just expanded into a huge new retail space bursting with fantastic stuff.

Back in Williamsburg, I made a trip to this giant twice-yearly consignment sale and found some wonderful things.  (Next stops on the consignment shop list: Sugar and Spice in W’burg and the hip-hip Clover in Careytown in Richmond.)

And with that, the baby has the beginnings of a wardrobe!

My favorite item so far: a little onesie printed with dragonflies and honeybees and lines of text that include this one:

Let’s wander through the woods

A sentiment near and dear to my heart!


Walking in Season: October 2010

It’s October — glorious October!  A month of turning leaves, blue skies, crisp autumn air, golden afternoons, and early evenings.  A month for picking apples, baking cobblers, carving pumpkins, and gathering ’round the hearth for the first fire of the season!

And, of course, it’s time for Walking in Season!  Last month, after a long summer of drought, I wondered, “Will the wetlands ever be wet again?”  October brings us the answer: an emphatic YES!

All week long, the remnants of Tropical Storm Nicole sat over Williamsburg, dumping rain — days and days of solid rain — upon us.  Over ten inches fell overall!  The lake is high, the creeks are full, and the wetlands are wet.

All week, Matt and I wondered if October 1 would be dry enough for our monthly photo shoot, and, as luck would have it, it was!  Thanks, Ma Nature.  Walking in Season is still a day late this month, however, as the time I’d allotted for blogging yesterday was instead consumed by efforts to eliminate a small flood from our garage.  (Happily, the garage is now flood-free.)

As always for the Walking in Season series, Matt shot the photos.  We decided to keep with the point-and-shoot camera for Walking in Season through the end of the year, for consistency between months.  But with the New Year, we’ll be switching fully to the digital SLR, and maybe introducing a new location, too!  Stay tuned!

Remember, you can view the entire series of 2010 Walking in Season photos here at Flickr!

Stop 1.  Green turning to brown…

Stop 1.5  Gray sky, black water.

Stop 2.  The green field, submerged.  Sadly, a fawn met its fate here during the storm — its little body lies half submerged nearby, and is a source of much fascination to the boys of the neighborhood.

Stop 3.  The canopy is thinning.

Stop 4.  Nary a puddle last month; now, flowing water!


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