We Don’t Know

We don’t know.

I hate liminal times. It seems I have been stuck in a series of liminal times since January. Always between where I was and will be and not knowing what I will find on the other side. Not even knowing which direction I should take. Stuck in the middle — go forward or go back, I could handle. But no, stuck in the middle, in the doorway, not knowing.

I’ve always said that I can change directions as many times as I need to as long as I know which direction I need to go right now. And I don’t, and I haven’t, and I don’t even know how to figure it out.

I thought I was done. I thought I knew, that things had been settled, I know what is happening. And just as one liminal time got resolved, another opened up and I’m back to not knowing, being stuck.

We don’t know how we will serve god until we get there — well and good. But I don’t even know where ‘there’ is right now, where am I supposed to going to? Which way is the desert where I go to serve god? How do I find it? Will I even know when I get there.

Fucking liminal times.

 

Yesterday I took part in a Zoom-conference “Torah, Poetry, and Chant” meeting run by my synagogue and led by our rabbi. The meeting included a chant and journaling based on a line from Exodus :

שָׁמּ ָ הבּ ֹאֵ נוּעַד ’האֶ תנַּעֲב ֹדמַ הנֵדַ עלֹא

Lo-nayda mah-na’avod et-Yah ad-bo’aynu sham

We don’t know how we will serve YHVH until we get there (Exodus 10:26).

It just really sums up everything right now.

Black History Reading List

I generally don’t say much about Black History Month because I figure it’s a time for me to shut up and listen. But on the subject of shutting up and listening, I figured I’d share a my black history reading list. Hot take: white folks who aren’t at least familiar with the titles and authors on this list probably don’t know enough about black history and experience to be talking about it.

Narrative of Sojourner Truth

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B duBois

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Why We Can’t Wait by Dr. Martin Luther King jr.

Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Mary McLeod Bethune Papers or anything by Bethune

Assata: An autobiography

My Grandfather’s Son by Clarence Thomas

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

If you can, start reading these or other book about black history and experience by black authors. If not, at least take some time to Google the titles and authors you aren’t familiar with and read a bit about them and their work.

Brief Updates on Lots of Stuff

It’s been a overwhelming month. Lots of stuff, both good and bad. Here’s the round up of what’s been going on with my various life goals.

My Bookshelf: I’ve started getting back responses from beta readers for Polyamory and Kink. As usual, the folks doing beta reads have some great comments and suggestions and pin pointed some areas I missed.

Old ‘Woman’: I’ve made some real progress in reliable self care. The 99 Coping Skills list is an awesome you should check out if you need self care ideas. I’m also doing better at staying in touch with family and friends and making progress on compiling my to-read list instead of just having a pile of books in various places. Also… last week was the anniversary of my mother’s death. Lots of thoughts, probably make a blog post next week.

Generational Home: There may be some very big news on this in the next few months. Dilip Numetor Amelia Chetana Waller, Michael and I will be going on a trip the end of February, and if all goes well our plans for living together will jump ahead several years.

The Farm: See above paragraph. If the February trip goes well, I’ll share some details when we get back. My indoor gardening is on hold until we know for sure what’s happening.

Cuil Press: Once Upon a Green Rose is out on Amazon, and for the first time we enroleld a book in Kindle Unlimited. We really don’t like the whole walled-garden thing Amazon has going, but we also want to make our books accessible and, you know, at least break even. So we’re experimenting. Green Rose will be in KU for 2 enrollment periods, then we’ll pull it and put it up on other booksellers.

As always, drafts of my books are available on Patreon.

So if you want to read Polyamory and Kink before next summer, become a Patron.

5 Books to Understand Me

I usually don’t do list posts, but this idea grabbed me. 5 books you’d give your partner to help them understand you. Idea came across my twitter feed from @Nicole_Cliffe@twitter.com and I immediately started figuring out what my five are.

You might have seen me share the list on Twitter and Fedi, but I thought it might be fun to share a bit about why I picked these five.

My 5 Books

The Sabbath by Heschel
Their Troublesome Crush by West
Planting Life by Mahler*
Mother of Demons by Flint
Deerskin by Mckinley

The Sabbath by Abraham Joshua Heschel

Heschel’s work is usually found on any list of ‘books to read to learn about Judaism’. If the list is for ‘Judaism in the 20th century’ it will be at the top.

The Sabbath explores the relationships between time, space, and humanity, with an emphasis on how Judaism is a religion of time, and the Sabbath a counterweight to the daily-life emphasis on controlling space. I think it would help a new partner understand not just my relationship with my faith, but how I have come to approach and view many things in daily life.

Their Troublesome Crush by Xan West

This novella about an autistic enby exploring a new kinky relationship with xir metamour was the first time I was ever jealous of a fictional character. Not for that specific relationship, but for the queer, Jewish, kinky, polyamorous family they were part of.

If I could create my perfect family, it would be very like the family in this book.

Planting Life in a Dying City by Jess Mahler

Okay, yeah, it isn’t published yet. Or even fully written. But it’s my book so I can always share the draft, right?

Anyway, in some ways Planting Life, even more than I, is my exploration of the meaning and importance of family.

Some years ago, I read a piece by Lois Bujold about how each story in the Vorkosigan saga is a meditation on a different aspect of parenthood. I think like the theme of parenthood for Bujold, the theme of family will be foundational to just about all of my longer fiction. But I think Planting Life conveys that theme and the meaning behind it better than anything else I’ve done so far..

Mother of Demons by Eric Flint

I really debated this one or A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett. But where Tiffany Aching helped me better understand myself, Indira Toledo shaped and largely reflects how I see and understand the world. I’ve already got 3 books about who I am, a look at how I perceive the world around me is a good one for folks who are going to be in my life.

For all Flint’s flaws (and he has several) he has a wonderful way of making clear the interconnections of history, culture, and belief. Learning to see those connections, largely through Flint’s work, has been a major formative factor in how I relate to the world around me.

Deerskin by Robin McKinley

Like it or not (and I don’t), trauma has had a major impact in my life. Deerskin is not just a beautiful story, and a heartrending exploration of trauma and the path of healing. It’s also the book I turned to year after year when I needed a reminder that the trauma is mine, but the sin and shame and guilt and hatefulness is not. That those things belong to the ones who traumatized me. That I deserve to reject those things, to live my life free of them and happy with who I am — even if the trauma keeps me from running as freely as I once did.

I highly recommend it to anyone struggling with their own trauma and healing.

I am Not Superhuman (And I finally realized it)

There are only so many hours in a day. And given my general spooniness, I have less useful hours than actually exist.
Unfortunately, the things I want/need to do are excessive for my hours-available.

I reached a point several years ago where I couldn’t cut down my to-do list any further without unacceptable sacrifices. Some things simply can’t be cut out. Stuff like housework, laundry, food, medical stuff, kids’ school…

Other stuff, in theory, can be cut, but only by harming other people. Stuff like time with kids, or helping Michael with hygiene stuff, or driving Ericka to doctor’s appointments.

Then there’s the stuff that people I cut out of my life would tell me I should cut. Stuff like my writing, or this blog, or studying Spanish and Hebrew, or my exercise goals (no, I don’t need to be able to walk 4 miles or jog one mile without getting winded. I want to.) Or if I gave up keeping Shabbat, which would give me 24 more hours a week to get shit done… But I get to have stuff for me. I get to say “No, my life will not revolve around chores and taking care of other people. I get to take care of myself and my needs — emotional and spiritual as well as physical.”

But…

there are still only so many hours in the day.

A Tangent Into Kink Adjacent Territory

Folks familiar with the online femdom community may be familiar with Ferns. Not as many folks will know that Ferns is something of a health nut and regularly corrals her friends and followers on twitter into various exercise pledges, ‘workout crews’ and other peer-pressure based stuff to get everyone off their butts and exercising. (She claims she does this because she needs the encouragement, but I think she just enjoys having an excuse to yell at folks for not doing what they are supposed to.) Since I’ve been trying to exercise more and get in shape for… honestly over a decade now, I’ve repeatedly let myself be roped in.

Most recently, she was talking about a twelve-week exercise challenge. And I distinctly remember telling her that by trying to complete one of her challenges (again) I was demonstrating the definition of insanity.

She laughed and said something to the effect that it never hurts to try or good on me for keeping trying or something like that.

Well, I made it through October. That’s something. But come November, something changed. It was becoming harder and harder to get myself out and exercising.

But! I was finally finding the energy to do actual cooked meals again for dinner. And making real progress on cleaning out the front closet.

Oh, and the bedroom finally got rearranged so I can use the dang bed again!

However, I didn’t put two and two together.

At one point, I was metaphorically crying on Ferns’ shoulder about how frustrating it was to be constantly ‘falling off the wagon.’ She encouraged me to keep trying, that I only had to get in a few more exercise sessions that week and I’d be okay. But also said that I had done well to get as far in the challenge as I did and that it’s okay if I need to drop out.

Something she said sparked a realization and I said, “I guess I expect myself to be superhuman.”

I Am Not Superhuman — but it feel like I need to be

I can’t do it all. I can’t do the cooked meals and walk 2+ miles a day and do Kid 1’s school, and the housework, and take care of myself, and and and and…

But I can’t stop doing any of those things either. Not and be, well, me.

So without realizing it, without noticing it, I came up with a sorta-system that sorta works. Some stuff, like school and medical stuff and a minimal level of food on the table, is always a priority. Everything else? Cycles. I barely wrote anything for several months, coinciding with when the school year started. As I adjusted to the school year, I started writing again, but meals and cleaning suffered. I started cooking and cleaning again, and no longer had the energy to exercise.

I did try to push through and keep exercising. Ferns really is good at the motivation thing. But when we all got sick and Kid 1 spent an entire night throwing up, I read the writing on the wall. I didn’t even try to exercise that week and have only gotten in a few half-assed workouts since then. But I know I’ll come back to it, probably after I’ve caught up with the laundry and made some progress on my Spanish lessons.

Or not.

One way or another, it’ll come around again eventually.

I think I’ve finally accepted that.

I’m not superhuman. I can’t do it all at once. But I am actually managing to do it all, after a fashion. And that’s just so thoroughly… me.

*Normally I wouldn’t discuss someone else on my blog without asking their okay first. But all the stuff re Ferns is public on our Twitter profiles. Plus, if you are interested in femdom D/s (or any D/s, IMO), she has awesome stuff and you should check her out. Here’s her website: https://www.domme-chronicles.com/

I am who I want to be (and that surprised me)

A couple of days ago there was a lot of talk on Twitter about autistic masking, and one corner of the discussion focused on how hard it can be to find yourself after you’ve masked for so long you forget who you are under the mask. During that discussion, I became consciously aware of something that I had been slowly recognizing for a while now.

Okay, if you missed the backstory, in January I did a series of posts about life goals. One of those posts was When I Grow Up I Want to Be HER. I acknowledged at the end of that post that,

It embraces things which have always been core to me–family, connecting with and learning from people, taking care of folks I love, music, being a home-body, not liking in-person socializing. But it also challenges me to grow, not into something different, but into a more capable, confident, comfortable version of who I am now.

But I still saw ‘her’ as someone I needed to grow into, and I realized, that’s not it.

I already am ‘her’

Or at least, I would be her, right now, almost no growing required, if I had the resources and health to do everything I’m already trying to do right now. I am the center pole of my family. I am in contact with friends across the country as often as my health and sanity allow and the only reason I haven’t pursued a closer connection with some folks I know across the globe is our mutual health and spoons makes it difficult to stay in touch beyond an occasionally ‘glad you are still alive.’ My home is as full of books and music and fresh baking and everything else I want as I can manage. I even got a bread machine so I can always have fresh bread, whether or not I have the sanity to manage the kneading/rising cycle myself.

Everything I wrote about wanting to do or have — I am doing and do have to the best of my ability right now. And if I had the resources (primarily money and health), I’d be doing even more.

So… yeah.

Growing into me

The biggest differences between who I am and who I want to be mainly come down to experience and confidence. And, well, you get confidence from experience.

It’s the first time in my life that I can say, I am who I want to be. I still have a lot of healing and growing to do. But I am the person I always want to grow into. That’s…

Seriously awesome and kind of scary. Because that means it’s time to stop working towards a future self, and start focusing on being who I am today to the best of my ability.

Or, to pull out an old cliche, time to spread my wings and fly.

It’s gonna be epic.

In, you know, a down home, introverted, fresh bread and butter kind of way.

Adventures in Zucchini Bread

We got a couple of zucchini from the foodbank last week. Initially, I had images of salads, stir fries, maybe breaded and deep fried… there are so many things you can do with zucchini. But two things came together to change that plan. First, I was still recovering from burn out and just didn’t have the energy to stand over the stove. Second, we were out of bread. So yesterday afternoon I popped on the internet to find some good zucchini bread recipes.

I found a few that looked promising, in particular, one yeast bread meant for bread machines and one quick bread. Based on the amount of zucchini we had (all of it starting to get a bit spotty), we went ahead and made both recipes. Unfortunately, I, ah, kinda forgot to read each recipe through in detail before we started.

When meant that my network on the Fediverse got to see my rant midafternoon yesterday:

zucchini bread rant
Seriously!

While I was measuring out a ridiculous amount of sugar, Michael was adding grated-zucchini-gone-yellow, rosemary, and yeast, to the bread machine.

Eventually we got everything finished and started cooking. The quick ‘bread’ finished before the yeast bread (obviously). I let it cool a bit then dumped it out of the pan. I will say that it baked well, nice solid loaf that came out of the pan cleanly and held together well. But it looked way more like carrot cake than any bread I’ve ever eaten.

Michael got the first slice and declared it delicious, and rather like pumpkin bread. (I’ve never had pumpkin bread, but took a quick look at the recipe. Another ‘bread’ with a ridiculous amount of sugar, clearly meant as a snack or dessert. I repeat THIS IS NOT BREAD!!!!) Kidling and I split a slice between us and… yeah. neither of us took more than a bite each. For me, the taste was okay, but the texture was just impossible. Don’t know what kidling’s issue was, but kidling eats just about anything we put in front of her, so her not liking it was a thing.

Michael finished the last of our slices, the rest is wrapped in the fridge to be shared with friends and family so Michael doesn’t end up eating the whole thing on her own.

The yeast bread didn’t finish until late and just got wrapped up until morning when I decided to try a slice for breakfast.

My first thought when I sliced it open was ‘am I having a memory blip?’ This zucchini bread just looks like bread. No sign of zucchini or rosemary. Just a regular slightly-lighter-than-usual whole wheat bread. I want the flavor as ‘natural’ as possible, and I need to go food shopping anyway, so I keep it simple, some butter slathered on top and some raisins on the side.

OMG. This bread.

This is just moist enough, somewhere between fluffy and chewy, with a subtle savory flavor that…. UMMM.

I can probably give this bread to Kid 1, who is notoriously picky, and he won’t even notice it isn’t ‘normal’ bread. I can use it as sandwich bread, toast, bread crumbs, for dipping in soup, all the ‘usual’ bread stuff. (Which is exactly what I wanted.) And it’ll actually be better. Not ‘practically eating air’ with store bought bread. Not ‘so chewy you get your exercise eating’ with regular whole wheat bread. And better tasting than either. Just… yum. *happy sigh*

According to the recipe site, it you figure the cost of the ingredients, this zucchini bread is $2.49 per loaf. Which means even with the zucchini and rosemary and sesame seeds (and those last two are pretty damn expensive per pound) it’s still cheaper than store bought. Not as cheap as a regular whole wheat loaf (for comparison, a basic whole wheat bread from the same site is listed as being until $2). But still cheaper, while being healthier, better tasting, and easy to make.

Win-win-win.

*happy sigh* Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bread to eat.

I Refuse to Be Futile

When I was a child, I used to dream about being the next Martin Luther King, Jr. The next Rosa Parks. The next Victoria Woodhull.

I was going to be a world-shaker, one of the people who refused to accept the horrors of the world and forced the world to change rather than changing to live within the world.

Over time, as I learned more about myself, and about the world, I accepted that this was one dream that couldn’t be. I don’t people well enough to be in the forefront of any movement, my anxiety and autism mean just taking part in a march, never mind leading one, would be impossible. And God knows I will never be respectable enough to be anyone’s flash point in this mad world.

So I turned my eyes to smaller versions of the same goal.

I would be a thought-leader in the polyamory communities. A writer whose fiction grabbed  minds and changed hearts. An online educator who helped people see and understand experiences and life-paths they had previously dismissed or denigrated. A homemaker who created a safe place for at least some of the people who have been chewed up and spit out by this world. A foster parent.

So many dreams. Some of them, I made progress towards, perhaps achieved in some small way. Many others are still on my to-do list.

But in all my dreamings, my hopes, my plans, my goals, there was one thing I never imagined I might be:

Futile


I have never written directly about politics on my blog or website. Indirectly, yes. The personal, after all, is political. I can’t write about being polyamorous, or bisexual, or non binary, or having trans partners, or disability, or mental illness, or poverty, or, oh, any number of other things I have written on, without there being politics lurking beneath the surface.

But as the ancient book says,

To everything there is a season.


I pride myself on my words, but words fail me.

How can I encapsulate the journey that brought me to this point? Where do I start? What do I say?

Because the truth is, that if you are in the US, and you follow politics at all, you know what this is about. Whatever your reaction, your thoughts, your beliefs, you can’t have even the most peripheral knowledge of what is going on in the US right now and not know. You’ve heard of it, seen the reports, had your own thoughts about concentration camp vs internment camp and who to believe in the ongoing political PR battles.

But, in the end it comes down to just four words:


Never again is now.


I have been tortured for weeks by one thought:

What will I tell my children?

Years from now, when they ask me what happened, when the ask me why, when they ask me what I did — what answer will I give them?

I cannot march. I cannot stand in blockades. I can’t even give much in the way of money.

But every time I find myself agonizing over this question, I find something else I can do.


Today, I am asking you:

What will you tell your children?

Years from now, when this is all over, what will you say?


If you disagree with me, and yet have continued this far, thank you. I know it is a hard thing for many people. You have your reasons for feeling, for believing as you do. I’m not going to dismiss that. Or tell you that believing I’m over-reacting or exaggerating makes you a bad person. Politics have gotten so angry, so many people have been crying wolf, and it’s so hard to know who and what to believe.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this isn’t the next step on the road to genocide.* But I ask you to seriously consider something:

If I am wrong, what is the harm in taking steps to ensure that detained children have medical care, decent food, and decent shelter? Even if the effort is wasted, is the cost so very high?

If you are wrong, what is the harm in not taking those steps? Is the cost of being wrong one you are willing to pay?

History always has the best quotes, so I’ll borrow this one, said on the eve of a long ago civil war:

I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.

*Did you know that at first the Nazis only rounded up foreign Jews? Invaders, job stealers, disease carriers… do you know enough of the history to understand why the words used about (illegal) immigrants and asylum seekers are physically painful to those of us who do know it?

If you want to do something, but don’t know what you can do, here are a few things:

Call your congress critters and urge them to increase funding for immigration services.

Election year is coming up. If your congress critters or representatives are running, let them know that concentration camps and fear mongering are not acceptable in the US.

Donate to Raices and other groups that provide free and low cost legal services to asylum seekers.

Learn about the immigration process and share what you learn with friends, family, and on social media. (Did you know that an asylum seeker not only can but *must* enter the US before they can apply for asylum? “To obtain asylum through the affirmative asylum process you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.” — USCIS website)

Learn about the concentration camps and share what you learn with friends, family and on social media.

Contact your local government reps. Some states, counties, and cities have contracts with ICE. Urge your local government to cut any such contracts.

Get with the leaders of your church, school, company, etc, and see what your community can do to fight back.

Get out there and take part in those blockades, marches, and other in-the-wilds activism. Take an extra sign for those of us who physically or mentally can’t get there with you, but are there in spirit.


I refuse to be futile. I can make a difference.

So can you.

When My Sexuality Can Be a Joy (possibly TMI)

I want to reach a point where my sexuality can be a joy. I want to be one of those old folks who has lots of sex and revels in freaking the younger generations with hints of the naughtiness she gets up to while they’re imagining her celibately puttering around the kitchen or playing parcheesi. (Which is actually a pretty fun game, but I’d probably be playing magic or Carcassonne.)

Two usually non-sex things are making that a challenge.

Sensory Issues + Sex = badness

The more common (and more annoying) these days is my autism.

I know, not one you’d expect to be causing sex problems. Relationship problems, sure, but sex problems?

Well, one of my major autism challenges is sensory issues. I hit sensory overload very easy, mainly because I don’t have the nifty ability NTs have to filter out ‘background information’. It’s worst with sound, but second worst for me is tactile.

And, you know, getting comes with quiet a few tactile sensations. There’s the various tinglings and warm feelings and wetnesses. And it just…

You know the recommended way to handle an autistic kid who has a meltdown? Remove or remove them from all sensory stimulation possible. Don’t touch if you can avoid it. Remove all stressors possible. You’re ideal is a quiet, dark area where no one intrudes until they are doing better.

How the fuck do I remove sensory stimulation being caused by my own body? It just ain’t fucking happening. Do it’s a negative feedback loop that can leave me a mess for days on end.

Yes days, because for some reason once I get horny it doesn’t go away until I do something about it. I have never found any equivalent of a long cold shower that works for me. And yes, that sucks too.

Trauma + Sex = badness

The second issue is PTSD/anxiety. This one makes more sense in broad strokes but the specifics are harder to describe. On the other hand, the specifics are no one’s business if I don’t choose to share them, so… anyway.

Yeah, sexual abuse means PTSD and anxiety can be major issues around sex. In fact, there were such major issues that at one time I didn’t think I had a sex drive. It turned out to be… more complicated than that.

Anyway, for whatever fucked up reason, (see above) being an anxious place or a bad-memory place or a “I feel like I’m a shit person” place doesn’t stop the horniness. It just makes it really unhealthy, where I feel like a dirty bad person for being horny, and a worse person if I do anything about it, and doing anything about it likely to trigger a panic attack, but again, it doesn’t go away and it’s another negative fucking feedback loop that fucks me up for days.

Progress Counts

It isn’t always bad. Actually, the more I’ve healed from the sex trauma, the more I’ve learned about my autism and how to handle sensory shit to avoid reaching the point of overload, the more I’ve been able to be horny, and do fun things with myself or my partners, and just… enjoy it.

I’m really hoping that in time I’ll be able to build on that progress and eventually the bad-horny times will be so rare they are noteworthy events and the good-horny times are the norm that I get to enjoy and to all the crazy sexy things.

Though, in an ‘irony wins’ fashion, the best solution I’ve found so far to horny+sensory overload is actually to go do all the sexy things as soon as I realize it’s happening.

Sexy Fun as Solution = Goodness

See, while we can’t filter out ‘background stuff’ many autistic people have found that a single, intense sensation can drown out all the sensory overload and give us some rest from it. This is actually the ‘why’ behind a lot of (though not all of) the self-harming stims some autistic people do. It’s also why spinning, spicy food, and weighted blankets tend to be popular with autistic folks.

And, done right, it doesn’t get much more intense that sexy stuff. (Especially if you throw in clamps, wooden horses, and those kind of fun things. Keep Wartenburg wheels and vibes way the fuck away from me thank you very much! Steady constant stim is what we’re going for here.)

This post brought to you by a sensory overload+horny morning fucking with my head. Very tight rope harness with crotch rope is my friend. Yup yup.

I Climbed a Mountain… and Found Some Birds

Okay, not really. But I did get in a good challenging hike straight up the side of a mountain. The almost-last section of trail was a couple hundred feet across what I think was once a glacial moraine. It’s basically a long (wide) line of large rocks and small boulders running across and sort-of-down the mountain.

I’ve gone up that trail before but always stopped at the edge of the rocks. Yesterday I said ‘fuck it’ and just kept going. Shortly after the edge of the rocks the trail I was on ended at the Appalachian Trail.

Gotta admit, I looked at the A.T. and was tempted to just keep going. Didn’t matter which way, I just wanted more trail and more time on the trail.

But I told Michael I’d be hiking in the local nature center. It’s basic trail safety: you tell someone where you are going to be, because accidents happen and cell phones don’t always work on the trails. So I turned my back on A.T. and headed back down the mountain.

Maybe next time.

Birds!

First Encounters

Along the driveway to the nature center, I saw a bunch of blue-and-white (with the blue shading to black in places) birds sitting on a fence. And a couple of yellow birds with black wings flying away. So before I hit the trail I stopped in at the center (open for once — I usually go late in the day after it’s closed) to see if anyone know what birds those were.

I mentioned to the volunteer that I had been thinking of picking up bird watching again. I walked out with the names of three new birds (while she was showing me some tree swallows to confirm that’s what I saw on the drive up, a red-winged blackbird flew by) a check list of birds that folks had reported seeing at the nature center and surrounding trails, and a guide to which birds are likely to be found where.

Bird Watching On the Trail

Walking through the scrub of the lower-trail to the trail I wanted was frustrating. I heard birds everywhere squawking their heads off. But I couldn’t see them. Or if I could it was just a quick flash. Once I got on my trail and into the forest-proper, I mostly forgot about the birds and focused on the hike.

I paused a few times to look for particularly loud or near-sounding birds, which also let me pace myself a bit. (Which I needed. While I felt fine pretty much the entire hike, when I was almost back to the scrub I noticed my blood pressure was spiking. I don’t have high blood pressure, so this was unusual and a concern. On the up side, I clearly got my cardio for the day.) Most of the time I didn’t see anything, and I never saw any of the noisemakers I was looking for.

But one time when I looked up at just the right moment, I saw a scarlet tanager (male) fly by.

(It’s possible the yellow-and-black bird I saw driving up was another scarlet tanager (female), but given that the area was scrub and wetlands I’m betting on American Goldfinch.)

There was a bench I knew of on the short loop trail through the scrub, so I got off my trail again I looked for it and sat down. Resting gave my blood pressure a chance to come down as my heart got a break, and gave me a chance to look through the guide in more detail than the quick glance I gave it before hitting the trail.

Awesome Ending

My last, and best, surprise came at the very end of the scrub trail. A tiny bird, small enough to fit in Kidling’s hand, was ‘hiding’ in a small evergreen shrub. ‘Hiding’ because I could easily see right through the shrub at any point it’s limbs were so loose.

The bird hopped from branch to branch, dipping it’s tail every now and again. I slowed, taking a step every couple of seconds and tried to stay quiet as I did so.

I’m pretty sure it knew I was there, but it must have felt safe in the shrub because it stayed there, letting me get a good long look at it. It was brown on the back and wings, yellow on the stomach. It had what looked like white lines around it’s eyes, but in the shadow of the shrub might have been yellow. On it’s head, a red cap. It was the red cap that kept me looking so long. I wasn’t quite sure I was seeing it. But eventually it tilted it’s head in just the right way that I saw the cap clearly.

As I passed the shrub it was hiding it, still at a slow pace, it flew away.

Mixed up Identity

The volunteer at the nature center told me it was an ovenbird and was really excited about it. I forgot how much fun it was connect with other people who are excited about nature and talking about birds and trees, and that weird-melted looking bit on the one rock, what could have caused that anyway?

I got home and immediately started looking up the birds I saw, confirming my identification.

It wasn’t an ovenbird. It was a palm warbler. Apparently they are pretty rare in the area. Ovenbirds are the usual warblers with a redcap around here, which explains the volunteers mistake. But ovenbirds have a white belly and no eye flash. This one must have been migrating a bit late (apparently they usually migrate in early spring, which is the only time we usually see them here.)

I’m not sure I’m right in my identification. But everything I’m seeing is that red cap, yellow belly, eye flash, tail bob in scrub means palm warbler. And the ONLY other warbler with a red cap is the ovenbird.

So that was a pretty cool end to the hike.

Personal Win

I woke this morning without any of the stiffness or soreness I half expected after climbing over all those rocks. I’ve always known it’s my legs that are in the best shape for my body, but that still surprised me a bit. Might make that trail a weekly run for the cardio, and see what other birds I can find while I’m at it.

Remembering Myself

One important thing I realized from this hike, is that in becoming the Old ‘Woman’ I’m not just trying to do new things or strengthen the things I already do. I’m reclaiming things I had lost. I grew up bird watching through my grandmother’s windows, with her huge, old, falling apart Guide to North American birds usually open the page on chickadees and sparrows. I spent most of my teen years tromping through woods whether doing a proper hike or just rambling through a local patch of forest.

These are things that were always part of me, and I lost track of with the stress, time-loss, and struggles of adulting-while-poor.

I’m going to enjoy reclaiming them.