darling buds of May

Here are some young leaves and leaf buds I saw outside the karate school when I took Phoebe to her class Friday afternoon. I did, indeed, deliberately choose to bring my camera and macro lens set up, since I knew I’d have time waiting. I love how vibrant the colors were in the late afternoon light.

My post title, in case you weren’t able to place it, is taken from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, likely his most famous sonnet:

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date:

In tracking down the excerpt, I was interested to come across a suggestion that in Shakespeare’s day, May was consider the first month of summer, as it is in the Irish calendar.

Of course, I also found a suggestion that they May of buds mentioned was not the month of May, but the Hawthorn tree:

It probably refers not to the month of May directly but to the May tree (the Common Hawthorn) that flowers in England at that time of year.

I don’t know what sort of buds I found, on some shrubs and small trees and climbing vines. I did find that it was tricky to focus on them, due to the breeze. (It would seem that the rough winds did shake them.)

A case of mistaken identity? (friday foto finder: prey)

Living in the woods as we do, it is not uncommon for small animals to visit us on our deck. We typically see lots of birds (chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals, etc.) as well as squirrels and chipmunks. When I heard a scrabbling sound at the sliding door a few days ago, I naturally thought it was a squirrel or a small bird. I was surprised, though, to see a bird of a substantially larger size: a hawk. I couldn’t get a good look at it. It flew off before I even had a chance to grab for a camera. I imagined that it had been there in pursuit of one of the typical smaller visitors.

A while later, I heard the sound again, and saw the hawk at the glass door. I grabbed my phone, but it flew off again by the time I moved closer. I went over to the door, and saw the hawk perched on a deck chair. I then noticed that Phoebe had left a sweater, one with zebra-striped fur details, on a box next to the slider. It occurred to me that the black and white mottled pattern might be attracting the hawk, perhaps resembling the pattern of feathers on chickens. There are lots of homes with backyard chickens in my neighborhood, and hawks are regular predators. This sweater may well have looked like potential prey.

I decided to leave the sweater, in hopes that the hawk would return. It did, quite a few times, though it rarely stayed at the window long enough for me to get a photo. I did catch it flying off to other nearby perches a few times.

As it flew away, I noticed that it spread its impressive black and white striped tail, giving me an alternative hypothesis: perhaps the sweater resembled another bird of prey, a competitor for the territory.

After a few visits from the hawk, I decided to keep my camera ready with my telephoto lens. (That’s how I managed to get that first photo, the one of the hawk peeking in through the chair legs.) I also got a few photos of the hawk perched in nearby trees.

Yesterday, in the early evening, I heard a scrabbling sound on the front porch. (The deck is at the back of the house.) As I walked into the dining room, I was startled by the flash of the hawk flying past the window. “It’s the hawk again!” I exclaimed loudly. Phoebe then asked, “Why do you keep calling it the hawk?” Then I explained that I was assuming that all of our recent hawk visits at the back deck had been from the same hawk. I grabbed my camera with telephoto lens, and was happy to see the hawk perched in a tree. Right over another hawk perched in the same tree.

It was hard to focus in the dim evening light, especially through the layers of branches. The hawks also didn’t stay put for long.

I now have a strong suspicion that these hawks are nesting somewhere near the house. I have been hearing them regularly. Just now, I heard some hawk cries, and opened the front door and saw a hawk flying away from the porch. (I didn’t have a camera on me…)

I think these may be Cooper’s hawks, but if someone else has a better idea, I’d be interested to hear it.

This week’s friday foto finder theme was “prey.” These birds of prey are higher on the food chain, and probably aren’t typically prey. But they certainly came to mind for the theme. To see what prey have been caught by others, pay a vist to the fff blog.

April showers bring May…showers

This first day of May started out chilly and rainy. Happily, it was not raining hard as the kids and I waited for the school bus, so we didn’t need to huddle under an umbrella. As we waited, the water drops on the pine trees along the driveway caught my eye, as they have before. I tried to get some photos with my phone, but in the low light of the dreary day, I could not get the camera to focus where I wanted it. I kept trying for long enough that Phoebe asked, “why do you take so many photos of raindrops on pine needles?” I found myself thinking, “why wouldn’t I?” But I probably said something like, “because they look so cool.”

After the bus came, I had about 45 minutes before I had to leave for an appointment. The plan was to eat breakfast and take a quick shower. Instead, I went back in and got my camera and macro lens set-up, and went back outside. It was raining lightly, and my hair got wet, so I figure this is practically the same as taking a shower.

(While I may not have taken a real shower, I did take quite a few photos.)

the cruellest month

I. THE BURIAL OF THE DEAD

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

There is a part of me that knows that every month bears its burden of sad anniversaries. There is good and bad to be found in each month. The scientist in me wants to graph the months, and the major events I have associated with each. Major illnesses and deaths, natural disasters, terrorist attacks on the one hand. Birthdays, holidays, wedding anniversaries, exciting trips on the other. I think a clustered bar chart of some sort would work just fine. Perhaps such a graph would show that each month was more or less the same.

Yet somehow, I can’t shake the feeling that the month of April would have a great big tall bar for the bad category, compared to the sorry little representation of happy events. Much of this would be due to April of last year. I have started writing out, in a level of detail that is both agonizing and cathartic, the hell that was April of last year. (I probably don’t need to share that here. I’m sure for someone else there would be far more agony than catharsis to read such a thing.) In short, the month was marked by, in rough order of appearance: impending death, sharing news of major illness with young children, sudden plans for travel, rearranging of work schedules, single parenting, fever, cancelled plans for fun activities, long drawn-out dying, pink eye, death, sharing the news of death with young children, poison ivy, memorial service, funeral, stomach bug, cancelled plans for fun activities, marathon bombing, Officious Dental Hygienist, shootings, explosions, manhunts, and cancelled plans for fun activities. Last April was a relentless series of grieving and petty grievances. And it was supposed to be a month marked by intense productivity for my research.

I can’t help but be reminded that it was also in April, back in 2010, that my nephew’s tumor was discovered, the start of an ordeal that brought on so much stress and worry for many long months and even a few years. The start, in fact, of some of the hardest times I have had in my adult life. (That was also the same month that I had my own run-in with poison ivy, too. It sounds like a small thing, but my doctor said it was the worst case she’d ever seen. I had blisters lasting for 5 weeks.)

April has a bad reputation for me.

So this year, I found that I was bracing myself for April to be another bad month. This is why I picked this month to blog every day. Making myself do something daily that I enjoy has helped get me through the sad anniversaries. Now, there are under 2 hours left of the month, and I think we have come out mostly unscathed. I say “mostly” because the month has not been great. There were some happy things, and some fun things, but also a few bad things of varying scales. I don’t even really want to get into it now. (Really, I don’t tend to think of myself as superstitious, but I find myself not wanting to jinx things. So it would seem that I am superstitious. Also tired.)

So, I bid good-bye to the cruellest month. Next month promises to be a full, and hopefully less thorny, one.


The thorns of April.

Curses. Foiled again.

Really, I just wanted to use that post title. (Because I have these photos of foil.)

All the same time, I am feeling cranky, and somewhat thwarted in my efforts to be productive. I have too many pokers in the fire. I have 2 conferences coming up next month for which I am involved in 4 total presentations (3 posters and 1 talk). Two of the posters are on my own research, and the others on the group research, in which I am also heavily involved. Plus I am working on finishing up a paid annotation gig. You’d think this would make me too busy to agree to various school volunteer things, but I am a sucker, so I helped out at the book fair at the school today, and am also going on a field trip with Theo’s class next week. In any case, I have a lot of work to do tonight, so can’t spare the time to work on the post I’ve been hoping to write.

But I am happy to have this excuse to share these photos I took with my macro lens set up. (Seriously, I think I may milk a couple dozen posts out of the many photos I managed to take wandering around my mother-in-law’s house and garden while the kids played.)

fruit, up close and personal

In addition to wandering the garden with my macro lens, I also went poking around in my mother-in-law’s fruit bowl. (Okay, one piece of fruit was too big to fit in the fruit bowl. It was on the kitchen counter.) Can you identify these 4 fruits?

unfurling

We went down to my mother-in-law’s for a few days this past week. (It was April vacation week for the kids’ school, and we had planned to be there with my mother-in-law for her eye surgery.) I was quite pleased that I thought to bring the lens and extension tubes that allow me to take macro shots with my camera.

My mother-in-law’s yard and garden was full of plants that were just waking up in the warmth of the late April days. (Spring was delayed down there, as well, due to the prolonged and bitter cold winter.)

I had a lot of fun taking photos around the yard, while the kids played.

I got a few shots in the late afternoon. The macro shots are tricky, and need plenty of light.

It’s also hit or miss whether I can keep my target in focus, especially when I am standing, and pointing up into the leaves of an overhanging tree branch.

I’m not really sure why I haven’t much remembered to take macro shots lately. I guess that when I am home, I don’t as often think to take photos. (I’ve noticed this before.)

Walking around with my camera, I saw details that I might otherwise have overlooked. Looking through the resulting photos, I was really charmed by the character of the fresh new leaves.