Tag Archives: Musings

I’m Not Spoiled. But I’ve Trained Mom Very Well.

Donk-glonk-thud. That was not the sound of a piece of cheese falling on the kitchen floor or dad opening the lid of his Greek yoghurt. No, this was something else. I had not yet figured out what that noise could be when I heard mom yelling. *&#@! And she doesn’t yell. Or even raise her voice. Not normally. Alarm bells went off and I rushed into the kitchen. I found mom sitting on the floor holding her right foot, or rather the toes of her right foot. Doggy 2 ud111And I got it. One of the noisy machines she’s been using had fallen on her toes. Poor mom. That’s what you get when you don’t listen. I had told her it was completely unnecessary to clean the house. She could have been massaging my ears instead and nothing like this would’ve ever happened. But I didn’t say I told you so. I just couldn’t. Instead I gave her a lick right on the cheek.

Anyway, she’s not been the only one suffering. Since last week, my walks have been cut short. Initially I could only get out onto the yard. To sniff the same trees over and over. That was boring. Eventually we walked on the sidewalk and I could read some of my newspapers in the grass. But then mom started limping and we had to turn around. After half a mile! And not one trip to the doggy park in the last 10 days.

I was living in the hope that I could skip my grooming appointment. But no such luck. I like my groomer a lot, but I don’t like the cutting, washing and drying. Luckily mom sat and waited for me. She was busy shooting the new dog paintings on the walls of the Grooming Shop.

But I have to admit, it always feels nice when it’s over. The clean smell is good. So coming home, I thought the worst was over. And it was – for a few days. We had family and friends visiting. I was basking in all the attention and enjoying frequent tummy rubs. All was good until early this morning, when mom told me I would need to see my doctor to get my teeth cleaned. And to get my shots. Not good news. I didn’t even want to look at mom after she told me this. Why would I need to go through such an ordeal? Why me?

dylan before tooth cleaning ud111Somehow mom managed to get me into her car and off we went. On empty stomach and all.

I have to confess I don’t remember much of today. I only remember the nice staff at the vet’s office before I fell asleep. It seems I was sleeping for a long while. But I can’t say I’m feeling rested. Or great. I’m groggy and I’m hungry. And my mouth hurts. I hope mom will make me a soft Crème de poulet for dinner. After going through all this I’ve earned something special, don’t you think?

Dylan after anesthesia ud111In fact, I’m still so confused that I don’t even want to jump up on my favorite sofa. I might fail. And that would be embarrassing. I’m just laying down on the hand-me-down bed in mom’s office.  No pictures please. I know this too shall pass.

I want to leave you all with a quote I found at my groomer’s. Something I want to encourage you to ponder. It just might have a useful message. I will discuss this with mom more in-depth when I feel better. And she is back to our normal routines. Hopefully tomorrow.

quote 3 ud111Much love, Dylan

A Weekend Holiday Party. Hosted by the Mayor.

This past weekend was a bit winter-like. Cool winds from the north, bright sunshine and then yesterday a bit warmer and cloudier with a few sprinkles. I was invited to a lively holiday party at the salt marsh. Two days of guests mingling happily in anticipation of the holidays. Residents hosting visitors who seemed happy to have escaped the real cold up north.

dozen-wood-storks-ud94And there were early signs of romance brewing in the bird community. Many couples, breeding plumages growing…and a few loud comments exchanged between suitors in some quarters.

The Reddish Egret was entertaining. Perhaps he was also trying to impress on his girlfriend, who had taken possession of the Mayor’s office. She was well put together and watched the Clown’s performance intently.

the-other-reddish-egret-ud94

reddish-egret-shaking-off-water-ud94And Miss Rosa was, of course, the object of everyone’s admiration. Including mine. I first spotted her hanging out with the big boys.

roseate-spoonbill-with-wood-storks-ud94Then she flew to a pond where she could fish undisturbed. Photogenic. And I think she knows it.

roseate-spoonbill-2-ud94While Rosa didn’t seem to have a boyfriend, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron did have company. She was sitting shyly in the bushes below the osprey nest, while her admirer was openly staring at her from a tree across a small ‘strait’.

yellow-crowned night heron ud94.jpg

yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud94Mama Sandy was there too. She looked regal on her new perch. And she was in deep thought. Perhaps mulling over ideas for home decoration, which is about to start in 3-4 weeks now.

mama-osprey-on-her-perch-ud94Suddenly I heard osprey speak. I looked up and saw Papa Stanley right above the nest looking down. They talked.

papa-osprey-flies-over-talking-to-mama-ud94I would have loved to know what was said in that brief exchange! You see, he has not yet been allowed to land in the new nest. I know it will happen early January, but only after he has performed his proposal dance and brought a gift to Sandy. Then they will start decorating their new home together. That shall be interesting. I will make only one New Year resolution this year, and that is to follow their nesting season as much as I can. And then share this couple’s joys and challenges here with you.

After Stanley flew away towards the ocean, Sandy greeted me from her ‘high chair’. She is a beauty. No wonder Stanley is so besotted by her.

mama-osprey-closeup-ud94I walked around the marsh and spotted two of our permanent residents, the Tri-colored Heron and the Little Blue Heron. They are such gracious little waders and by now not a bit shy when I approach them.

tricolored-heron-2-ud94In fact, the Little Blue Heron kept me company. She walked with me quite a while along the southern border of the marsh.

little-blue-heron-ud94Soon I saw the big birds chilling out in the ‘west wing’ of the marsh. Mainly Wood Storks and Great Egrets, in clans, couples or solo enjoyed the holiday smorgasbord.

wood-stork-ud94I learned something new, namely how the Wood Storks ‘sit’ on the ground when only their heads are visible above the high grass.

wood-stork-2-ud94This is how. They actually sit on their knees – bent the other way round compared to ours.

wood-stork-sitting-ud94The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor of the Marsh, was hosting the party. He patrolled the waters and talked to the guests.

great-egrets-blue-heron-reddish-egret-ud94At one point he said something to a Great Egret. I thought I heard “let’s compete who’s first at the osprey nest”.  I can’t be sure, but off they went.

mayor-and-great-egret-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-in-flight-ud94

great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-flying-ud94I have no way of knowing who won. Or even if that matters. But when I arrived back to the nest, I found each of them in trees close to the nest…in the company of the Night Heron couple.

great-blue-heron-and-night-heron-2-ud94

great-egret-and-night-heron-ud94But were there no small birds at the party?  Of course there were. But these birds make me work too hard to get even one acceptable picture 🙂 I managed to make two of them to pose just for half a second, a Northern Mockingbird and a tiny Least Flycatcher who moved all the time. And I mean all of the time, which is obvious from my soft picture.

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alder-flycatcher-2-ud94After being hosted by the Mayor, entertained by the Reddish Egret and greeted by Mama Sandy and Miss Rosa, I left the party and walked home by the bay side. There I spotted only one bird, a Brown Pelican at the Sailing Center pier. The pelicans prefer the bay or the ocean for their smorgasbord.

brown-pelican-ud94I hope you enjoyed this holiday party as much as I did. We all wish you a wonderful, stress-free week.

 

 

The Beautiful Diversity of Being. Perspectives and (Analog) Nostalgia.

It’s all about perspective. If you lay on your back on the parched ground, you will see bright blue skies through the opening formed by your body in the tall elephant grass. It is yellowed and crispy. It does not move. You see, there is not a breath of wind. Air is vibrating in the heat adding shifting patterns to the sky.  And you think of dance. Relaxing, slow dance of the universe.

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Traditional dancers in Zimbabwe early 1990s

If you sit up your perspective changes. You see a thick wall of dry grass. Covered in dust it is still standing, proudly reaching for the skies. More out of habit than anything else. Elephant herds have not yet passed by here, and the sun has not yet completely broken its back. But it knows from experience that not a drop of water will come down for a long time.

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An elephant family crossing the Luangwa river, Zambia,  late 1980s

If you stand up in the midst of the dry grass your perspective will change yet again. You will see the river flowing by. Its speed has slowed down since the rainy season and its banks are higher now. But it still transports the lifesaving elixir to all in need, people and wildlife alike. 

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Luangwa River, Zambia,  late 1980s

Beyond the river you can see an acacia tree silhouetted against the sky. And a lone giraffe seeking shelter from the burning sun. Still months to go before the heavens will open, making the rivers overflow their banks and bringing the savannah to life again. It will get worse before it gets better.

giraffe-2-kenya-nos1
Giraffe in Kenya early 1990s

These are but a few perspectives on Africa. As seen from a small patch of tall elephant grass.

Before experiencing Africa in the late 1980s to mid 1990s I had no idea how much this continent would adjust my perspectives on life. And of those sharing my journey.

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Fresh from the plane. Our first day in Africa (Lusaka, Zambia) late 1980s

I embarked on this journey to widen my horizons, and to add to my perspectives on life. I hoped to gain a better understanding of the human experience through immersing in cultures and traditions so different from mine. I wanted to experience the wild. And hopefully to do some good along the way, however insignificant.

aulikki-at-coffee-ceremony-in-ethiopia-nos1
Attending a traditional coffee ceremony in Ethiopia in 1990
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Performing Lingala songs in Kampala, Uganda mid 1990s

Those were my hopes and expectations, but I had no idea of how much the rest of my life would be influenced by Africa. That I would feel the passions and pains of its people in my bones. Develop a lifelong love of the wild creatures roaming its savannahs. And come to embrace, at least partially, the differences and similarities of lives lived under the same sun in various corners of our precious earth.

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A young dancer in Livingstone, Zambia, late 1980s

What I learned gave me a firm respect for life, and overlapping perspectives to observe it from.

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Life is about following your path. Sometimes it may mean leaving behind the safe and familiar to experience the pulse of something new and different. To leap into the unknown in order to contribute, to learn, to discover and respect other perspectives than those one was born with. To see the beautiful diversity of being. aulikki-and-dylan-birthday-2016

Last week I grew a year older. An excellent opportunity to reflect on what has been. Thinking back to this meaningful passage in my life, I feel nostalgia. And tremendous gratitude for having had the privilege to peek into life on this old continent over several years in several countries. Despite some hazards and heartaches, my eight years in Africa rise to the surface among the good things that have enriched  my life experience. I appreciate the hardships and the blessings. Africa captured my heart.

On my birthday I found nostalgia right there in my lap, together with Dylan. And went to try on my Ethiopian national dress. It still fits.

 

In Hermine’s Arms. Wet and Windy.

No, Hurricane Hermine did not make a landfall here in central Gulf Coast. But being on the east side of the storm brewing on the ocean we came to experience the worst weather in its feeder bands. Relentless downpours and tropical storm force winds from Wednesday until this afternoon. And it’s not quite over as yet. We are fine, just now surrounded by much more water than I have ever seen here. The beach has only a narrow strip of sand before the ‘lakes’ take over. All the paths to the salt marsh are heavily flooded too. And our garden has an extra pond where I usually walk Dylan at midday.

flooded lake on the beach from Hermine UD77

flooded beach hermine UD77

hermine extra lake UD77But there has been lots of drama in our area. Rescues from sinking cars, flooded streets, homes and businesses, a hospital evacuation and house fires. A storm surge in some places north of us reached 12 feet, while ours was only 2-3 feet. Luckily no lives were lost.

hermine damage channel 8 ud77It was difficult to stay inside for over two days. Apart from some challenging bathroom breaks for Dylan. The cabin fever set in. I had gone to the terrace a couple of times during short breaks in the rain to take pictures of the ocean, the salt marsh and the bay .

hermine at the jetty UD77

hermine bay ud77And I had tried to take a few pictures from inside as well. With varying degrees of success 🙂

rain and the bay Hermine UD77

hermine on the bay rain ud77So late this morning when the rain did let up for a couple of hours, I went out with my camera. I wanted to check on the flooding and the waves pounding the beach. Or so I thought.

hermine winds UD77I walked through our back garden and among lots of debris from palm trees, I found our resident Northern Mockingbird.

northern mocking bird UD77Then I steered towards our ‘board walk’, which leads to the beach. It was not under water, but I could see ‘lakes’ on both sides, normally dry land.

extra lake from hermine UD77

flooding from hermine UD77And when I arrived at the end of the walk, I discovered the path to the beach was flooded. Much more water than my rain boots would take.

hermine flooded path UD77So I ended up shooting the waves from our board walk. The wind was still measuring at over 30 miles or 50 kilometers per hour. It was difficult to stay upright. Even the flood waters had noticeable waves.

hermain on the ocean UD77

hermine gulls and waves UD77

6 foot waves Hermine UD77The waves were still about 6 feet high and a group of terns was taking shelter at the narrow sand bank separating the ocean from the flood waters. Soon it started to rain again and I had to run inside. In the coziness of our living room I looked out towards the bay. Perfecting the art of staying inside 😉

hermine from inside 2 UD77I have not yet been able to visit the salt marsh due to the heavy flooding, but I hope to do so later on this Labor Day weekend. The only bird I have seen from my terrace is Mama Osprey. She was checking on the nest this afternoon. The water levels are currently too high for the wading birds to walk there, but I’m hoping for a rush as soon as the waters recede a bit. Happy weekend to all of you.

R & R Part III: The Wave of Life

Wherever the wave of life transports me, I always seek natural beauty. Back home it was easy to find untouched nature and to feel its ‘spirit’.  Even when people help nature to produce fruits, vegetables and berries it happens in harmony with the wild. Lettuce grows not far from lingonberries.

garden Finland Aug16 UD75

lingon berries Finland Aug16 UD75In my dad’s garden, the apples were still growing, getting more colorful every day. And the healthy buckthorn berries were almost ripe to pick.

two apples Finland Aug16 UD75

buckthorn Finland Aug16 UD75On our daily walks, of which at least one went all the way around the lake, I noticed and enjoyed the small things in nature. Like the butterflies, the Peacock and the Mourning Cloak we found around our trail.

Peacock butterfly 2 Finland Aug16 UD75

mourning cloak butterfly Finland Aug16 UD75I heard the hum of the universe in the Finnish forests, mighty green with stately firs, pines and birches. And rowan trees full of red berries for the birds to enjoy.

Finnish forest UD75

rowan 2 Finland Aug16 UD75And I admired the great variety of wildflowers we encountered on our walks: wild roses, blue bells, clover, dandelions, heather and floating beds of water lilies.

wild rose 2 Finland Aug16 UD75

Heather Finland Aug16 UD75

water Lily 6 Finland Aug16 UD75I stopped to take pictures of them and then had to run to reach the others. Great exercise…some days over 12,000 steps. Not that I’m counting  :-).  Although in fairness, our awesome guide would stop and wait for me if I disappeared from sight. He always made sure nobody was left behind in the woods.

Baby on the walk Finland Aug16 UD75Whether it was morning, late afternoon or evening, the lake always spoiled us with gorgeous views.

reflections on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75

sunset on the lake Finland 2 Aug16 UD75

evening on the lake Finland Aug16 UD75One evening we spotted a couple of Whooper Swans very close to the shore, but of course that time I didn’t carry my camera. The next evening I could only find one of them at the far end of the lake.

swan Finland Aug16 UD75We often came back from our explorations around the magical ‘blue hour’ after sunset. Then, soon after night fall around 10 p.m., the moon climbed up onto the sky painting the lake in magical colors.

blue hour 2 at lake Finland Aug16 UD75

Moon Finland Aug16 UD75

moon lake Finland Aug16 ud75My last evening ‘back home’ I went out to the lake and got a surprising goodbye gift. A Loon swam quietly out through the reeds fairly close to me. What a treat!

Finnish Loon ud75The next morning I had to leave at 3 am to make my early flight to London and further to the US. The archipelago outside Helsinki was just waking up to a new day.  I felt deep gratitude for having had this wonderful time with my dad, my sister, my niece, aunts and cousins.

archipelago Finland UD75The next morning after coming home, I found a welcome committee from the salt marsh right here in our garden. Snowy Egrets, White Ibis and a Northern Mockingbird had gathered to welcome me home.

snowy egret ud75

white ibis ud64

northern mockingbird ud75That was wonderful, but nothing compared to the reception I got on my first walk at the salt marsh this morning. Can’t wait to tell you all about the welcome back party.

I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a great new week.

Curves: Man vs. Nature

Man has created beautiful architectural curves. One prime example is the Dali Museum building in St. Petersburg. It is a curved masterpiece of glass and cement. The large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the ‘enigma’ is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass.

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dali museum building ud68To add to the curves, the museum garden also boasts a statue of Dali’s curved mustache.

dalis mustache ud68As you can imagine, there are many beautiful curves inside the building as well, but the only example I have been allowed to photograph is this impressive ‘fire horse’. It stands tall right in the entrance lobby, showcasing its many lit curves.

the fire horse at dali museum by tiny ud68But how do the man-made curves compare with the curves created by nature? Like this giraffe on the savannah with its soft curves.

giraffes curves ud68Or this Great Egret with its long, curved neck.

great egret curved neck ud68And how does any manmade curve, however masterfully created, compare with the perfect curve of the rainbow that hangs there, freely suspended in the air over the bay. Just like that.

rainbow over clearwater bay ud68  panoramaAnd not to talk about the celestial ‘buildings’. The sun just about the dive into the ocean. Flawless, well-lit curves.

the curve of the sun at sunset ud68Or the moon laying on its belly in the evening sky. An impeccable curve, even when captured by a mere human on the ground.

The curve of the moon ud68I appreciate all beautiful curves, but I’m sure you can see what inspires me more…what about you?

Persuation Time. And Miss Rosa Steals the Show.

Lady Cawcaw is still around. During this busy week I have spotted her eating in the nest at least once every day. I have been hoping she had caught the fish by herself, but now I’m leaning towards it having been supplied by one of her parents. And on Friday I witnessed something rare when observing the nest from my terrace. Mama Sandy was eating her fish in the nest, while Lady Cawcaw was crying to get a piece. Or maybe she was hoping for Papa Stanley to come to her rescue. I thought I could hear “where’s my fish, daddy?” quite clearly.

mama osprey eats in the nest with chick ud67It’s hard to listen to your baby cry, I know. But Sandy may have taken this drastic measure in an attempt to persuade the little lady to come on fishing trips with her or Stanley. And I think it might finally be working.

While Lady Cawcaw seems to have found a better night perch and has not been spending the nights at the nest anymore, she was there when I arrived at the salt marsh yesterday morning.

osprey chick looks at parents ud67She was looking up and I saw Mama Sandy was flying above the marsh.

mama osprey ud67Although her crop didn’t look empty, she immediately started to ask for fish.

osprey chick sees parents ud67No fish was forthcoming, and after a few minutes she flew away. Supposedly to go fishing, but there is also the probability she went to check on her parents’ whereabouts.  I decided to walk around the marsh.  It was lively. Lots of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets around.

great egret ud67

snowy egret at sunrise ud57And Miss Rosa was there too! She was in the middle of her elaborate beauty routine. I took a 30 second instructional clip so you can learn how it’s done.

Another one of my favorite birds was there too, the Reddish Egret. He was also doing his morning routine. But as soon as he saw me, he made sure I noticed what he was up to: fishing.

reddish egret 2 ud67

reddish egret 3 ud67

reddish egret fishing ud67He was fun to watch. He always is. And he knows it.

The Tri-colored Heron didn’t make a big number of his hunting. Actually he was just admiring the view for quite a while.

tri-colored heron ud67A big junk of my walk was taken up by chasing the Black Skimmer around the marsh. That was fun. He was skimming the surface of the small ponds. As soon as I got him in focus, he was in another pond. Two thousand steps later, this the best picture I got.

black skimmer ud67I was marveling about the big feet and the colorful red-green “boots”of the little Moorhen …

papa moorhen ud67…when suddenly a familiar face shot up from the bushes. The young Great Blue Heron looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

young great blue heron ud67.jpgHe decided it was better to move to the other side of the deep water, away from the paparazzo.

young great blue heron flies away ud67

younger great blue heron flies away ud67He landed right below the Osprey nest, where some Red-winged Blackbirds were looking for food scraps.

red-winged blackbirds ud67Their enjoyment of the Osprey B & B was cut short by the return of Lady Cawcaw. As you can see, she has now mastered the same landing technique as her parents, coming from below and against the breeze.

osprey chick returns ud67 b

osprey chick returns 2 ud67 bHowever, she had not yet mastered how to catch a fish. But now she’d been trying. She shook off the excess water at the nest. Bravo!

wet osprey chick ud67I could see Papa Stanley perching high up at the fire station next to the salt marsh. He was wet too. I figured he might have been giving diving lessons to his teen. He might have told her something like this: hover over the water to spot the fish you like, size it carefully so it’s not too big for you, then dive in feet first and your talons stretched out, but don’t dive more than about 3 feet deep! That should do it…shortly.

papa osprey at fire station ud67While I was walking home on the bay side, Stanley passed me, in the air of course. He settled on his favorite spot at the corner of Marriott’s roof and immediately started to scan for fish in the bay. He is a great dad. I wished him Happy Farther’s Day.

papa osprey at Marriott's roof ud67Late in the afternoon, I saw that Lady Cawcaw was eating in the nest. I hoped it was a self-caught dinner.

Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a great week.