Category Archives: Just Life

Return of the Mayor. And Other Salt Marsh News.

Before Hurricane Irma visited the salt marsh in early September, all the resident birds evacuated prompted by their natural instincts. The marsh was already deserted when I was still trying to get tickets out of here for Dylan and myself…and the sun was still shining. It was eerily quiet. The mandatory evacuation orders for human residents on this barrier island did not have the same effect. Many stayed to ride out the storm.

Salt marsh before Irma UD141I have to say the salt marsh fared quite well. Most of the old, tall trees are still standing. But the debris took weeks to clear out.

salt marsh debris after Irma ud141

Irma debris at the salt marsh ud141

salt marsh after Irma ud141When I visited the park on my day at home between the storm and my trip to Europe, there were no birds. They had all stayed at their evacuation resorts. Apart from one.

papa osprey right after the storm ud141.jpgPapa Stanley was perching at the sailing center. He had returned to check out his forest and his home. Or maybe he was looking for Mama Sandy. I’m pretty sure he saw the nest had not been damaged…before he took off again.

Irma 2017 ud141When I came back from my trip in October most of the debris had been hauled away and I found this ‘monument’ at a small clearing where several trees had fallen. But only a couple of birds had returned. Among those Mama Sandy. She was perching at the nest looking a bit tousled, very serious and definitely wet. It was good to see that she, too, had made it through the storm. But now Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen.

mama osprey after Irma ud141A lonely Tri-colored Heron was trying to figure out how to find something to eat despite the still very high water levels at the marsh. And that was it. The evacuees were slow to return.

tricolored heron ud141Late that evening, Dylan and I spotted the young Great Blue Heron on the bay. He too seemed to wonder where everyone had gone.

younger GBH UD141And so it continued for about three weeks. I started to get worried about Papa Stanley. He had made it through Irma’s 120 m/h wind gusts, but why was he not home? And where were all the other residents, including the Mayor, the Clown and Miss Rosa?

papa and mama osprey are at home ud141Then one morning in early November I looked out of my office window and discovered a large gathering at the marsh. That was a great sight…and out I ran to witness the return of the evacuees and the migrating visitors.

The first birds I spotted were Papa Stanley (yay!) and Mama Sandy. They were having a mid-morning snack, perhaps following a joint fishing trip. Papa was perching on a lamp-post and Mama at the nest. And they were keeping an eye on each other.

papa osprey eats and looks at mama osprey ud141

mama osprey at the nest 16x9 ud141Finally the marsh was busy. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Wood Storks and others.

younger GBH and visitor wood storks ud141The younger GBH, who now looks very much like the Mayor, was patrolling the waters in his typical manner, pretending to be the boss. Some of the Wood Storks gave him the look.

wood stork ud141That’s when I saw a familiar fellow in the corner of my eye. The Mayor had returned! He was foraging far away, completely undisturbed.

the great blue heron Mayor fishing ud141_edited-2Knowing the history of these two, I thought things might get interesting. And before long, the Mayor discovered his young rival. He decided to check on the youngster.

the GBH Mayor moves in ud141_edited-2The young fellow noticed the developments. But he didn’t back off from his newly acquired position of power. Looking determined he continued his march…

young GBH ud141

younger GBH discovers mayor ud141… until he realized the Mayor was running on water. And closing in on him.

GBH ud141The Mayor took a detour onto a grassy islet, but continued his approach with determination.

the mayor ud141Tension was building. Everybody was watching.

three wood storksThat’s when I discovered that the Reddish Egret, the Clown, had returned. He was not performing his usual tricks. Instead, he stood frozen in place under some mangroves. Watching.

reddish egret ud141The little Snowy Egret, who was hiding in the grass close to the scene, decided it was better to keep some distance. One never knew what could happen.

a snowy egret ud141

snowy egret flies away ud141The Mayor continued his march, and finally the two ‘great blues’ were face to face.

young and old GBH face to face UD141And this is what happened…

The old Mayor still has the spark. The younger GBH ended up on dry land, his feathers all buffed up. He quickly assessed the situation – and walked away. Everyone seems to prefer it that way.

younger GBH ud141 A couple of days ago, Dylan and I went to the dog park in the middle of the day…and found the same crowd at the marsh – minus the younger ‘great blue’. The party was still going on. The Clown discovered my camera and decided to perform an elaborate bathing ritual for his captive audience.

Reddish Egret the Clown ud141

Reddish Egret takes a bath ud141

reddish egret sits in the water ud141We left this delightful ‘photobomber’ happily sitting in the shallow water. Normalcy has returned to the salt marsh.

mourning dove ud141Some of you may wonder what happened to Miss Rosa. I was pondering that too, until the other night. Dylan and I discovered her all alone at the marsh at sunset time. And she was there even last night. She is definitely back home too.

Miss Rosa the Roseate Spoonbill at sunset_edited-1Opening my terrace door this morning, I discovered that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were at the nest. That was remarkable. But Stanley’s early visit didn’t last long. Sandy told him in no uncertain terms to wait at least 4-5 more weeks. And promptly chased him away. He will be allowed in the nest only after a proposal dance and a special gift delivery. Traditions have to be respected. And everything has its right time.

mama osprey chases papa away from the nest ud141I noted that Irma, however powerful, had not been able to sweep the nest clean of building materials Sandy had put in place last year. But this couple will still need to do quite a bit of remodeling when the nesting season starts at the end of December.

With that, we all wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. And peace.

Moon Happy Thsnksgiving

 

Tears. Gratitude. And Change.

As you may have seen, I have already unpacked my recent travels in Italy. I started fromme 4 years old ud142_edited-1 the top of my suitcase right after opening it. But there is more. And it’s much harder to unpack. The bottom layer of my ‘virtual suitcase’ is heavy with memories all the way from my childhood. Some now wrinkled, others still vivid.

After having to say the final goodbyes to both my dear dad and husband last summer, I had to go back to Finland mid September to take care of dad’s estate with my sister. That’s where my recent trip started. At my childhood’s lake house in Finland. The quiet, peaceful place in the north that’s had a great influence on who I am today.

I have always felt that the many moods and expressions of and around the small lake reflect my life. Dark skies, bright skies, strong colors, soft colors, fire and passions, peacefulness and sadness. I love them all. And I will remember them all.

lake-in-the-fall-2-ud78-16x9

lake after sunset Finland Aug16 UD142

sunset 2 on the lake Finland UD142

sunrise fire at lake sulunjarvi finland ud142

sunrise on the lake finland UD142

rain on the lake ud142

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75After losing our mother to cancer in our teen years, we “the sisters”, were blessed to have the world’s best dad with us until this past July. A WWII veteran, despite of failing health in the last couple of years, he was sharp as a knife until the day he passed on. Here pictured at 19 in his military uniform and on his 90th birthday a few years ago. An ironman with the heart of gold. His love is still vividly felt and his wise counsel missed on a daily basis.

While going through all the papers and photos gathered over so many decades we found remarkable things. Among those was an old newspaper article about our dad. He was carrying the Olympic torch as it traveled through Finland to the 1952 Olympic Summer Games in Helsinki. I had heard of it, and knew he had been a great athlete, but never before seen this ‘evidence’. It made me proud…and teary-eyed.

Olympic flame carried by Mikko in summer 1952 UD142_edited-1.jpgIt was hard to put dad’s house on the market, the house he built with his own hands and where we grew up. But since none of us could live there, it had to be done. My sister and I remembered how we used to have a ‘grocery store’ right under the enclosed front porch. Among other neatly packed goods, we ‘sold’ sand in used wheat flour bags…to whomever walked by. Great for pancakes, we used to advertise. So many happy memories.

Mikkos house at night 2 Finland Aug16 UD75In the last picture I took of the house, the wild wines seemed to form a colorful heart on the wall. Symbolic of the love that lived in this house. And that is how I will always remember it.

koivuranta finland home ud142I packed what little I could carry in my suitcases, the most precious memories. When I left for the last time on that overcast Saturday morning, they were filled with melancholy and gratitude.

two suitcases ud142The old Loon I had seen on every visit in the past few years made an appearance far out on the lake, as if saying goodbye.

the loon finland ud142I traveled to London. I would have a Sunday stopover in this familiar city before continuing to Milan for work early on Monday. I would pull myself together.

That evening I took a long walk on the darkened streets and ended up at a small restaurant reflecting on life. Full of twists and turns, but at the end delicious like calamari. If we had the courage and took the time to taste it.

late night snack in London ud142_edited-1Sunday was a gorgeous autumn day. I rode double-deckers, took a boat ride on the Thames and walked for miles. The brilliant fall colors in Hyde Park reminded me it was the season of change. But that was hard to accept.

hyde park ud142I wanted to dwell on memories crafted with my husband in this city. I revisited places I remembered from our honeymoon and several subsequent visits. I passed the Trafalgar Square, where were used to walk among the pigeons. Nelson was still there.

Nelsons Column in Trafalgar Square London UD142I passed the Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s Cathedral, where my husband had photographed the beautiful interiors such a long time ago.

Westmister Abbey London ud142_edited-1

st pauls Cathedral 2 London ud142I walked around the Tower of London, where we had fun adventures as newlyweds. The landscape around it had changed remarkably. The famous Gherkin, the Shard and other modern glass towers now filled the skyline.

tower of london and the gherkin ud142_edited-1

tower of london and the Shard ud142The newest tower was still under construction, but already invited prospective buyers to visit model apartments. This reminded me that while the old and familiar was still there, new experiences would be added to the fabric of life.

londons newest glass tower apartments UD142The Big Ben at the Parliament buildings had fallen silent. At some point age tends to catch up. But hopefully, when the extensive repairs have been completed in 2021, its famous chimes will be heard again.

the houses of parliament and big ben london ud142The 3500 years old Egyptian obelisk at the Thames, Cleopatra’s Needle, brought back both our honeymoon and our last visit to this city just a few years ago. I could still see myself behind the camera and husband sitting on that sphinx on the right.

cleopatras needle London UD142And passing the London Eye, I realized I had to learn to look into the future, however difficult and meaningless that may feel at the moment.

the London Eye ud142I knew that sooner or later I had to cross that misty bridge to the next phase of my life.

tower bridge 2 london ud142And with that I was on my way to Milan and my Italian experience, grateful for what had been and what was yet to come.

the shard and the plane ud142It was, indeed, the season of change. And I had to accept that.

hyde park in fall colors ud142_edited-1

Birthday. Solo in the Fast Lane.

My birthday was coming up. Again. And it would be the first one my husband would not be there to take me out to celebrate the day. I knew I would feel it in my bones. To start a different tradition in the new normal, I decided to take myself out. Way out. I would go to Rome for my birthday.

Frecciarossa RomeI would take the Red Arrow, Frecciarossa, from Milan where I had been working. Two hours and 55 minutes from city center to city center. 297 km/h. In birthday style.

frecciarossa executive class seat RomeAfter a hearty breakfast and a short nap, I arrived…to a different time.

I took a red double-decker ‘carriage’ to the Colosseum. I was intrigued by this massive amphitheater measuring 190 by 155 meters (620 by 513 feet) built in the city center on the grounds of the former palace of the decadent emperor Nero. It was opened by Emperor Titus in 80 A.D., only a year after the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii.

old ruins in Rome

old and new in RomeTraveling through the city center, I passed many beautiful structures. When I could see the walls of the Roman Forum, I knew I was approaching my destination.

Panorama from behind the Roman Forum RomeI got out of the carriage. The horses looked exhausted after navigating through the city.

horses at the colosseum RomeIt was a gorgeous late September day. I admired the great works of the Romans, and was in no hurry at all …

next to Colosseum Rome

gate at the colosseum Rome…to enter the Colosseum. I decided to linger outside for a while.  I knew the hunts and wild animal fights usually took place there in the mornings. I could almost hear the cheers of the crowd, over 50,000 people packed inside…watching the combats and waiting for the public executions that usually started around noon. Later, in the afternoon and early evening, they would witness gladiator games and combats.

panorama of colosseum Rome_edited-1Finally I went inside.

colosseum from inside RomeLooking up from the ground floor, I could ‘see’ the elaborate private boxes where the noble and upper-class families enjoyed non-stop entertainment. The more gruesome, the better. The plebs tightly packed on the marble seats of the upper tiers.

the many leyers of colosseum Rome_edited-1Although there were about 100 drinking fountains for the spectators sprinkled on the upper floors, the underground hosted most of the facilities. colosseum underground chambers Rome

There were fresh water pipes of lead, cisterns for gathering rain water, latrines for the patrons and an elaborate system to handle all the waste generated at the arena on daily basis. The stalls housing wild animals and the gladiators’ chambers were also underground.

Most of the gladiators were slaves, condemned criminals or prisoners of war, but there were also a few freed men who wanted to become famous and rich…by keeping up a winning streak. Looking up from the lower levels at the ecstatic spectators must have been frightening. The masses expected bloodshed.

view from the base level colosseum RomeI climbed stairs and walked the ancient corridors pondering about the four centuries this arena was in active use. The entertainment here was elaborate and expensive. At some point the cost accounted for about 1/3 of the Roman annual revenue.

Over the centuries, this amphitheater was damaged by storms and earthquakes. It fell in disrepair by the 6th century, and finally became a quarry for building materials for forts, palaces and churches, including the St. Peter’s Basilica.

colosseum base level RomeAs a result, about 2/3 of the original structures were destroyed, until the restoration efforts started in the 1990s.

Now I needed to balance all these past horrors with some beauty. I hopped on my ‘carriage’ again and traveled through the city center past the impressive Parliament building.

Italian Parliament Rome_edited-1I hopped off at the Castel of St. Angelo and decided to walk to the Vatican.

Piazza and castel St Angelo Rome

castel st Angelo RomeIt was quite a walk, but luckily I am well-trained by Dylan. Approaching the St. Peter’s Basilica, I was suddenly thrown back in time.

approaching st Peters Basilica Vatican RomeI briefly ‘saw’ my husband happily sitting in that square all those years ago.

raimo at vatican RomeBut that picture had already been taken. He was not there. Instead the place was very crowded. Hundreds of people were lining up for entrance.

the crowd in front of Vatican RomeI decided to continue my walk and visit the Vatican museums instead.

Vatican building B Rome

guard at Vatican RomeI needed to experience beauty. Art. Food for my soul. And there was plenty. Like this famous painting of Adam and Eve by Wenzel Peter.

Wenzel Peter Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden Vatican Museum RomeFantastic paintings in the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

ceiling painting at sistine chappel Vatican RomeAnd many sculptures, ancient and modern, like the “Sphere within Sphere” by Arnoldo Pomodoro in the museum gardens.

room with statues Vatican Museum Rome

statues at vatican museum rome

arnoldo pomodoro Sphere within Sphere Vatican Museum RomeNot to mention a large collection of icons and other paintings.

Icons at Vatican Museum Rome

another painting Vatican Museum RomeWhat surprised me was the sizable collection of Egyptian artefacts.

egyptian artifacts at Vatican museum 2 Rome

egyptian artifacts at Vatican museum 1 RomeAt the end of the day I had seen a lot. I had also walked a lot, over 20,000 steps. I was completely ready for a meal freely allowed on birthdays. Quattro Stagioni. Pizza at an Osteria next to my hotel.

IMG_1888I wish you all…a Happy Birthday if you happen to have one, or just solid, ordinary days this coming week. Those days are the best. Be here and breathe deep.