From negativity to positivity

As my Nana would say, “You can almost see her breakfast…” Thank goodness for skorts on windy days.

This is my second draft of a post because the first was a tirade about the Dystopian nightmare that I feel I am living in.  I keep looking up to the skies for a plague of locusts or frogs to accompany the Pandemic and violence.  Ultimately, I decided that there was no point in adding my angry comments and opinion to the melee.  Instead I retreated to my containment pond where the water is full of ducklings from both the Muscovy and Whistling Ducks.

Muscovy Mama with her head in the pond and gorgeous ducklings (eight are still with us)

I have been sitting on the edge of the culvert, frightening the green heron because I walk so softly and delighting in nature.  The dragonflies, of every hue, come close to me and land on my head.  Teddy has counted over 30 species of dragonfly in that pond alone.  We watched their very active mating and then saw a female dip her tail, with the fertilized eggs in the pond.  By August, it feels like you are in fairyland with a rainbow of dragonflies fluttering around you.  They stick close to humans to catch the mosquitoes that bite us.

So far in 2020, Teddy has rescued a really large Turtle who was stranded upside down and yesterday I found a tiny little one, about 2 inches across, who was dropped by a predator in the grass.  I lifted him up and we were able to take a close look at his cute little face.  He was hot and bothered so I delicately popped him in the pond and off he swam having lost one of his nine lives (or whatever turtles have).  Today I stopped on the path as Mama Muscovy and her eight big babies walked up the bank and onto the grass for shade.  Mama kept on walking with a trail of ducklings waddling, with me at the tail end.  They have become used to my presence so know no fear.

The Whistling Ducks have tiny little spotted ducklings and they are a little more wary.  There are at least 8 pairs of ducks with a variety of little ones.  The ducks have a really cute squeak but I haven’t heard them whistling yet.  The frogs that bleat like sheep are back – and it is quite unnerving.  I keep looking for a flock of lambs to no avail.  There is a GIANT carcass of an Armadillo in the grass.  It is about the size of a large cat.  I guess it was run over and then the predators had some tasty lunch.

Whistling (squeaking) ducks – their babies are spotted!

I mentioned before that Muscovy Ducks are called Backyard Ducks in Mexico where they originate.  That means they are a tasty lunch in Mexico…  While I was sitting at the pond I spotted an older Mexican couple who were gardening at one of the houses.  They were taking quite an interest in all the ducks and I watched them with trepidation.  ‘You can’t eat these ones – they have names!!’  I was overreacting because they just wanted to ooh and aah over the ducklings like all of us.  In Baja, Teddy and I had the most delicious duck and pomegranate tacos but I didn’t name those ones…  What a hypocrite I am, especially since I have eaten many interesting animals in our travels across the world.  Alligator is chewy, BTW, as is camel.

As much as I still enjoy my pond and its critters, I realize that I live in an idyll far removed from many Americans.  In our township, you are not allowed to discharge a weapon for any reason, especially not to hunt.  There are no fireworks allowed at any time and a million other regulations.  As frustrating as our quarantine has been, I can only imagine what it is like in crowded public housing with no job to go to.

Great Heron walking in Pond Weeds

May we exit this pandemic in peace and live more equitably with compassion for every member of society.

All these photos are taken by the marvelously talented Teddy who has a new exhibit for his photography.

 

Our first date…

 

…since the Pandemic started.  We moved into our ‘new’ house 16 years ago when we moved to Texas from Cairo.  One of the reasons was that it was a 5 minute walk from our house to a local steakhouse and bar.  We don’t go that often as it is expensive but it is a lovely treat at happy hour.  Now you have to make reservations and observe restaurant social distancing.  It was a tad weird to see our usual servers in masks and gloves but lovely at the same time.  They welcomed us like old friends.  We both had to sit at the same side of the booth to be the requisite distance from the next booth which was very romantic.

It’s a fancy place but not pretentious and we dressed up.  Teddy has lost so much weight that his Tommy Bahama’s good shirt could have fitted both of us in it – time for the charity box.  I can fit into my old skinny clothes and I am wearing my favorite cream Max Studio dress worn with an ‘antique’ brown velvet jacket from Bandera, Texas.  I am pretty sure the previous owner has passed on but I love to think of the events she may have worn it to.  At the restaurant I ate my steak like a ravenous wolf and devoured the whipped potatoes.  Then we had a bottle of wine AND DESSERT.  It was all gluten free – just like my life now.

Like many of us, I have spent quite some time on introspective thought.  My mental health has been good given the circumstances and I realize that I enjoy social isolation (and the calm that comes with that).  Rather sadly, I went into the airport and handed back my badge and keys.  I have been volunteering for 11 years or so and it was the strangest sensation to see how quiet everything was.  The volunteering program has been suspended temporarily but I had already decided before the pandemic that it was time for me to do something new.  I doubt I will have any VIP work for the next year but that might pick up in the future.  It is a special birthday for me in July when I turn 60 – WHAT!!!!  We had vague plans of a short trip somewhere but who knows.  We could spend the rest of our lives just exploring Texas…

Is anyone else totally fed up with the Pandemic euphemisms?   These Challenging times, Unusual circumstances or The New Normal.  It’s a bloody Pandemic – just call it what it is.  The best new word I came across is Covidiot which means someone who doesn’t follow Pandemic Protocol.  On that note I was scolded at two separate grocery stores.  ME – compliant citizen exemplified!  The first time I waited patiently in the line to go in a smaller store, wore my mask and kept my distance.  At the checkout I stood behind the plexiglass but wasn’t standing in the taped yellow box.  The older gentleman, checking my groceries out, asked me to move back, and I apologized profusely.  I was mortified.  Today, I went through the 15 items only checkout at another store.  I guess I had about 20 items which has never been a problem in the past.  This time I had to pay for the first 15 items, and then the extra items separately.  This time I almost blushed.  I sheepishly left the store reminding myself to count the items next time.

Some very classy citizens have been behaving very badly during these ‘challenging times’ and I don’t want to be part of that mob.  One mother created a ruckus at Red Lobster (a seafood chain of restaurants) because she had to wait.  I guess nobody knew she was Mother of the Year??  It doesn’t sit well when so many of our population are food hungry right now.  Thank you once again to all the essential workers who have worked so hard to keep us safe.  The least we could do is to make their jobs easier.

Happy Memorial Day – E Pluribus Unum.

For Eliza

Ernie and Harry

Eliza had asked to see some photographs of my regular walk around our containment pond, so without further ado… We often see all the varieties of heron fishing together. There are little snowy egrets, little green heron, night heron, Great Egrets and Great Blue Heron.

Rory, the American Robin

I love Robins – British Robins are small and vividly red like our Cardinals. The American Robins have such lovely songs and their coloring is so pretty.

Shrimpy Shrimp is always in flower – even on the coldest days!

She is a native of Mexico – beloved by butterflies and hummingbirds

Happy Hibiscus!

I love this tree sized pink Hibiscus bush which is on one of our shared neighborhood flower beds. We live in a posh commune…

Vladimira, the Black Vulture

I opened my front door and Vladimiri was standing right in front of me, drinking the water from one the neighbor’s sprinklers.  I chatted to her and admired her juvenile who flew away but she was not bothered by my presence. Unlike the next wonderful creature.

Walter, the Water Moccasin?

I am not entirely sure if this is the venomous Water Moccasin or a Diamond Back Water snake. Teddy was shouting, “Don’t get too close!”, to no avail as I was determined to get a shot of the snake swimming. It was so EXCITING!!

Pineapple Gauva Blossoms. They have delicious little fruit.

Bobby, the Blackbird

This is the American blackbird – not dissimilar to the European version but with a gorgeous flash of scarlet on the wings.

The Waltons – Whistling Ducks

Whistling Ducks are not really true ducks, nor geese – they are a sub family Dendrocygninae.  Some Whistling Ducks, further south than us, nest in trees to keep the eggs safe from alligators. I think we will have many babies soon…

Bonnie, the Eastern Bluebird

The local Bluebird Group have little houses all over our township and this year we have TWO pairs of Bluebirds of Happiness.

Covid Art

I am not sure who started painting rocks and leaving them on our walking trails but it was a lovely idea for young and old.  Children must be so bored staying at home – so much so that I saw my neighbor’s toddler swimming the breast stroke in the street puddle (where the sprinkler water gathers)!

 

JOY AND LOVE TO EVERYONE

 

 

Mask Couture

Finally, our masks arrived from China!  I made Teddy dress up for the photograph – you may as well rock social distancing!  I put on eye makeup for the first time in months and had to take it off as soon as the photo was taken…  As I look at celebrity and other videos, I wonder if we will be less vain when the Pandemic is over?

I noticed a change at the store today – there was hand sanitizer and toilet tissue and paper towels!!  My gluten free shelf was all stocked up and I breathed a sigh of relief.  As soon as I did, waves of guilt washed over me for all the people who have no food.  I read Reuters World news to keep a real perspective of Covid-19’s effect on the world.

On a happier note, I saw Mama and Papa Bluebird on their nesting box today, along with a large but young Great Heron and a family who had adopted a rescue dog during the lock-down.  Bravo to them!

Keep safe, keep well and thank you to all our essential workers.

Easter 2020

It’s hard to wish anyone a Happy Easter this year but I hope you are able to find small moments of joy.  Teddy took this photograph of me on Good Friday while we walked around the containment pond.  On route we chatted to some new neighbors across the fence, we met a fisherman who caught a foot long bass fish out of the pond!  Whoo Hoo!  We high fived from 10 foot distance – I have only ever seen heron sized minnow snack.  Then we moved aside while a community minded neighbor mowed the walking path with her son so we could walk more easily through the long grass.

I think you can see from the look on my face above that I am struggling to keep being vibrant although the little Zen cairn made my heart happy.  Just like all the vapid celebrities, I have no makeup on and a baseball cap to hide my hair…  As we sat down last night to watch yet more Netflix or Prime, I commented to Teddy that this is probably my worst Easter ever.  Immediately I felt guilty for comparing my luxurious life to anyone else’s this year.  How awful to be in a refugee camp or to be any of our first responders.  As I mused, I remembered my real worst Easter which was in 1970.

We lived in prefabricated metal public housing that was unbearably cold in a Scottish winter.  In the autumn of the previous year, I started getting chest infections consecutively.  My health and lungs had been compromised from babyhood in part from my mum having tuberculosis during her pregnancy with me.   In our community there was no choice of family doctor and ours had many complaints about his incompetence.  My mum pleaded with him to refer me to a pediatrician but he blankly stated that she was neurotic and continued to prescribe antibiotics.  By midwinter my Nana and mum had created a little bed for me in the nook of the fireplace of the living room which was the warmest place in the house.  I woke up every morning with dried mucus covering my whole face like a veil of illness.  My breathing was terrible and I missed months of schooling.

In desperation my uncles gave my mum £40 (a fortune for us) to visit a pediatrician privately.  He also worked for the National Health Service, as do most private surgeons, and I was in hospital the next day.  By this time 6 months had passed and it was almost Easter.  There was no room in the children’s ward so I and 3 other little girls were placed at the end of a Victorian long ward full of ladies with cancer.  I was terrified by the older ladies barely holding onto life and the strangeness of the situation.  The two little girls opposite me were sisters and had been flown in from one of the outer Western Islands.  Was it a twofer or were they both genuinely needing their tonsils out?  It would have been very expensive back then to fly in from Barra.  They were relentlessly cheerful and kind to me in their soft accents from speaking Gaelic.

My mum tried to visit every night after her very long work day and I think I sobbed every visit.  When I was wheeled to surgery, alone, I asked the surgeons if I was going to die.  They removed my adenoids and tonsils – a complaint was made about our family doctor who we still had to see because of no options available.  In those days they made you eat scratchy toast to heal up your throat – ow!  All the food was awful and worst of all – it was EASTER!  Family and neighbors rallied around with an array of chocolate eggs that I could not eat.  All except a little egg box full of Cadbury’s Cream Eggs with a sixpence underneath each from my aunt Cathie and uncle Donal.  I was able to suck the cream out of the eggs even though I couldn’t eat the chocolate.

Eventually I went back to school although I had some home tuition.  I had no voice for weeks and I struggled to catch up.  But I did, and life moved on.  It was so stressful for my poor mum that she had a major mental breakdown after this and never worked again.  I am so grateful for the all the kindness given to us at that time.  One of the greatest sacrifices was from my mum’s colleague’s son who donated his extensive collection of rare American comics to this sick little girl.  Richie Rich and his friends made me so happy.  I still love the gift of a magazine – it feels like a treat.  The taste of artificial cherry that disguised childhood penicillin makes me feel sick, as does the smell of a hot toddy.

Kerry’s egg shaped cyst behind her lungs

In retrospect, I realized that my peculiar egg shaped cyst behind my lungs may have made me sicker than I would normally have been.  It looks like a portent of doom, doesn’t it, but the cyst has shrunk back to the size of a raisin.  There is always light at the end of darkness.  Hollywood endings are rare but we will overcome our current sickness and learn how to make our lives safer.  I had the Catholic Last Rites when I was less than a year old but so far, so good.  Keep faith in humanity.

I send springtime wishes to all of you, whatever your faith or lack of.  Be well.

A Little Levity

It drives me crazy that of all the lovely shots I had taken of me in my wedding dress for our thirtieth wedding anniversary, this is the one blown up on my husband’s office wall.  I guess that is the Kerry that he really loves.  Right now at this crossroad in history we need some lightness.  The last time I felt panicked about going out was in 2003 in Cairo, Egypt.  The Second Gulf war had started and there was a perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction.  We were advised to stay home in case Westerners were a target.

Don’t you love the vista behind our balcony?

Since I looked like I did above, it was obvious that I wasn’t Middle Eastern but I couldn’t stand being in the house.  I strode out silently daring anyone to harass me.  Nobody did…I probably looked like a crazy lady.  Then I felt silly.  Now we have to socially distance.  I went to Trader Joe today (our Marks and Spencer sorta) and there were little yellow lines painted 6 ft. distance.  They were only allowing a limited amount of shoppers and it was the quietest I have ever seen the shop – bliss.  As you approached the shop, the Trader Joe artists (there are always some on staff to paint the signs) had put little encouraging words on the yellow stripes.

“Getting closer…”

“Almost there…”

When I got to the checkout desk, I had a little chat with the lady. “I look ridiculous with these black hair dye gloves,” I said.  “Oh, no, I have seen much worse…” she returned with a chuckle.  Then my imagination went into overdrive with WWII gas masks and Breaking Bad yellow boiler suits.  Then I went home and disinfected my purchases.  Earlier in the day, Teddy was convinced he had appendicitis.  I reassured him that it was probably gas and this wasn’t a good time to go to our doctor’s office.  It is right across the road from a retirement community that has been quarantined because of a significant outbreak of Covid 19.  I checked his temperature and poked the sore bit, made him bend over to check for sciatica.  Then I scolded him for being hypochondriacal at the wrong time in human history.  He seems to be fine now – usually Dr. Kerry can scare most illnesses away.  The gas came out eventually – so much so that I fell about laughing and sprayed air freshener in our house.

It hasn’t been long since I had a major bout of depression and anxiety.  I have good days and bad during this crisis but so does everyone.  For the first time, most of you can empathize with how a chronically mentally ill person feels ALL THE TIME.  It is so exhausting to be terrified and worried about everything.  Now there is a pandemic and I am doing okay.  After I reassured Teddy that he wasn’t dying, I went for a walk around the pond and up to the reservoir.  Many years ago, my friend Anne and I took our bikes many miles to our nearest reservoir in Glasgow at Cathkin Braes.  The sign said, “NO TRESPASSING!” but we were about 13 years old with that ‘who cares’ attitude.  We were having a lovely time when the warden found us.  Oh dear… we got a dreadful row about how dangerous reservoirs were and to go home immediately.

Boris and Natasha, the Muscovy Ducks

I REALLY wanted to ignore the NO TRESPASSING sign, at my reservoir today, but two Sheriffs had already passed me.  I just stood and enjoyed the ozonic breeze wafting down from the water.  A Great Heron was fishing for her lunch at the spillway.  She must have caught a dozen little silvery fish that sparkled before disappearing down her gullet.  She was pretty husky for a heron…  Back at the pond I almost stood on the fattest Muscovy duck – I think the neighbors feed her because she isn’t afraid of me.  Teddy usually lumbers after me on walks round the pond – he has a big actual footprint and frightens all the critters away.  This time I was able to see around 20 little turtles sitting on a mud bank with a single White Egret.

I saw a variety of neighbors and we all kept our 6ft distance, shouting the news at one another.  The great leveler is how awful we all look.  Grey roots, no makeup, stubbly beards, Walmart clothes and no one cares.  My Walmart tops are all from the thrift store so I have Eco Brownie points.  Our cul de sac is in a state of excitement right now because we have a new nest with a Black Crowned Night Heron.  They aren’t particularly common round here.  Teddy and I sat out on our deck on Sunday and a perfect little Downy Woodpecker came really close in the tree right above our head.  She had no red markings yet and seemed to be fascinated by the humans.  She tapped and tapped, entertaining us for a full hour.  Take comfort in small moments of joy and be as safe as you can be.

THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD  – POSTSCRIPT 

As I was writing this post, I heard an inordinate amount of sirens – police, fire engines and ambulance.  We live close to one of our major routes within the forest but we haven’t heard them for weeks since everything went pandemic crazy.  I was so bored that I considered going out to see what idiot had sped through our cross stop or ran over a pedestrian but decided to keep watching Animal Planet.  Then our neighbors sent a round robin to say that some desperate guy had robbed people at gunpoint in one of our furthest subdivisions and sped away.  He had gone into our sleepy little street to escape the police and then exited only to wreck his scooter in front of the pediatric hospital across the road.  He is now in critical condition – I guess God decided he deserved a Darwin award.  To give some perspective, this is a sleepy backwater with very little crime so this is unprecedented.  Today was a strange day for me, not just because of the weird robber, and I had already been considering opening a bottle of wine.  The wine is finished…  On a really sad note, two of the elderly residents of the retirement community have died – may they rest in peace.