Switched horses in midstream

19 February, 2017            Switched horses in midstream

Twenty-four hours ago this blog post had a much different look. The title was Daffodils you can hear. But as events unfolded – primarily unremarkable events – I moved in a different direction. I switched horses in midstream, in a manner of speaking.

The main horse I switched in mid-stream was I drove up to Rockingham County this morning to meet some of my family to work on projects at mom’s house. This is what you see when you enter Rockingham from the south on Route 11:

WELCOME TO ROCKINGHAM COUNTY TURKEY CAPITAL

WELCOME TO ROCKINGHAM COUNTY TURKEY CAPITAL

It was hard to leave this morning; Evelyn always has fresh flowers on the dining room table and they were glowing while we ate breakfast:

Doesn't it look like they're lit from within? Spectacular flowers to begin a lovely day.

Doesn’t it look like they’re lit from within? Spectacular flowers to greet a lovely day.

We’re continuing to organize mom’s stuff. This message was in her front porch:

Peace

Peace

Anyway, too long of a day, and I have to be up real, real early tomorrow morning. So a few miscellaneous pictures from this week and I’ll (with any luck) be more focused next week. Did I say that last week? I hope not, but maybe. The world will keep turning. Just read the third picture again.

I of course can’t go a week without a Red-tail picture. This redtail flew over our heads as Mackey and Turner and I were driving up Forest Avenue yesterday shortly after noon. It landed in a tree across Forest Avenue from St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church. Directly behind Henrico County Firehouse 8. Red-tails are not people tolerant (they’re not tolerant of me, anyway) and it immediately flew across Patterson Avenue and landed in a tree above Bank of America. They don’t like it when I get out of the car, which I did yesterday. It’s still glaring at me in this picture:

They have a distinctly disapproving look they save for when I get out of the car

They have a distinctly disapproving glare they save for when I get out of the car

 

Spooked seagull returns to a mid-river rock:

Moments before, and eagle flew over and they scattered. They were just returning:

Moments before, an eagle flew over and they scattered. They were just returning:

Still plenty of buffleheads – probably for another month or more. I’m looking forward to seeing how soon the first osprey of 2017 arrives on our section of the James. I want to see how much overlap there is between the spring arrival of the first osprey from the south and the spring departure of the last bufflehead for the north. A few from yesterday:

They're ever-present at Pony Pasture, but not ever-present on the surface:

They’re ever-present at Pony Pasture, but not ever-present on the surface:

I’ll close with my “daffodils you can hear” video. Daffodils are one of many visible signs of spring. Spring peepers are one of many audible signs of spring: 

[[This correction just in as of late last night. I misidentified the frogs in the video below as Spring Peepers. My knowledgeable friend Kim informs me they are in fact chorus frogs. We have five varieties of chorus frogs in VA, some rare and some, like this one, common. I believe the sound in this video is being made by the Upland Chorus Frog (Pseudacris feriarum). Thanks Kim! Correct me if I’m wrong again!]] 

Daffodils you can hear 

The other audible sign – that I haven’t yet concentrated on – is the “dawn chorus” of songbirds. It hasn’t begun in earnest yet. But in a month, when the weather breaks and we get a warm night, sleep with your windows open. The birds you hear will boggle your mind. Here’s an informative description of it: The Cornell Lab of OrnithologyWho Sings First During The Dawn Chorus—And Why?

More next week! Have a lovely week! All best,

Jay

Posted in Birds, buffleheads, daffodils, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, ospreys, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Shenandoah Valey, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

February sunburn

12 February, 2017            February sunburn

Pat and I paddled up the river this afternoon and we almost got sunburned it was so bright. At my house near Parham and Three Chopt it went up to 78º; I’m not sure what it was on the river. I took this picture just as we got out of the canoe near Bosher’s Dam:

Our gleaming James River below Bosher's Dam earlier today:

Our gleaming James River below Bosher’s Dam earlier today:

The wind was in our faces (a lot) when we started out, and it took us 60 minutes to paddle from Huguenot Flatwater to the dam. The return trip took 25 minutes. It was nice to have the wind behind us. Mackey and Turner and Yuki and I hiked at Pony Pasture (of course) earlier today. I asked them to sit politely for a moment on the walkway through the wetlands:

You cannot beat these three for hiking buddies.

You cannot beat these three for hiking buddies.

When we were walking down the riverbank when we first arrived, the sun was coming up and shining through these fresh maple buds:

Nothing says "Spring" like a glowing maple bud

Nothing says “Spring” like a glowing maple bud

It didn’t feel a lot like the first half of February today. It’ll be cold again tomorrow. Just as we got on the river this morning we saw a dense flock of Buffleheads; they’re normally not crowded together like this:

Dense thicket of buffleheads

Dense thicket of buffleheads

They were staying in the same place (to the extent buffleheads ever do) so I thought I’d shoot a brief video. This is twelve seconds long and will give you a good idea of how difficult it is to get a decent picture of a lone bufflehead. They just sit there, then they disappear underwater, with zero warning – over and over and over again. Have a look: 

Vanishing bufflehead squadron video 

Between the warm temperatures and the almost-sunburn and the fresh maple buds, it was easy to taste the approach of spring. Here’s another video from the back corner of Pony Pasture, near the Wetlands. Listen with the sound turned up:

Peepers welcome the early Spring with song  

I hadn’t realized – I’d never experienced – raptors as vocal as the ones I heard this week. Around our house on Tuesday, there were so many Red-shouldered hawks making so much noise in our neighborhood they practically sounded like a flock. I subscribe to an online birding guide called The Cornell Lab of Ornithology Birds of North America. It has encyclopedic accounts of every bird in North America. Under the “Red-shouldered hawk” entry, introduction, this is the first sentence of the fourth paragraph: “The Red-shouldered Hawk is a vocal bird early in the breeding season when courting and establishing its territory.” I wonder how many years I’ll have to do this stuff before I stop being amazed. All of the stuff that’s happening around me all the time, I’m oblivious. Then you read a paragraph here or a chapter there and some new piece of information suddenly makes sense. This is just one of the many Red-shoulders that were screaming around our house Wednesday morning:

Squawking Red-shouldered hawk in my yard Wednesday

Red-shouldered hawk in between squawks in my yard Wednesday

I was on my way home precisely nine minutes earlier (according to my camera) when I pulled into the parking lot of the West End Assembly of God, opened my sunroof and photographed this Red-tailed hawk perched on a cell phone tower:

Red-tailed hawk as seen through open sun roof

Red-tailed hawk as seen through open sun roof

Tuesday we were headed to the river going east on River Road, down the hill headed toward Huguenot Road. I’d never seen a Red-tail there so when one swooped across the road and landed in a sycamore I pulled into the parking lot and got my camera out. Just across the street from there, Little Westham Creek flows out of the lake at University of Richmond and crosses under the road. I believe it’s actually between the University of Richmond and the Country Club of Virginia. I took this picture, and a moment later another Red-tail landed on the branch next to this one. I wasn’t quick enough to get both:

Half a pair of Red-tails at the Country Club of Virginia

Half a pair of Red-tails at the Country Club of Virginia

Later when we got to Pony Pasture there were two deer grooming each other in the woods near Charlie’s Bridge. I tried to get a video but the brush was too dense. Look closely – you can see the tongue of this deer in the lower left of the picture as it grooms the other deer. Just remarkable:

One whitetail deer grooming another at Pony Pasture on Tuesday

One whitetail deer grooming another at Pony Pasture on Tuesday

Between Pony Pasture this morning and paddling this afternoon, my day ran way too late. So I’ll close with a picture of one of the lovely pansies Evelyn’s kept blooming on our front stoop all winter:

Front porch pansy, courtesy of Evelyn. Evelyn courtesy of my great good fortune.

Front porch pansy, courtesy of Evelyn. Evelyn courtesy of my great good fortune.

Have a great week! All best,

Jay

PS Oops, found one more picture from this week that I enjoyed. When those two deer were grooming each other Tuesday at Pony Pasture, I got one clear shot through the brush. Look at this lovely animal: 

I don't know if that deer feels peaceful, but I certainly feel peaceful when I look at it

I don’t know if that deer feels peaceful, but I certainly feel peaceful when I look at it

Posted in Birds, buffleheads, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’ll have mine on the rocks

5 February, 2017            I’ll have mine on the rocks

Mackey and Turner and I were headed toward Pony Pasture on Tuesday (January 31) and were greeted by this sight:

I'll have mine on the rocks

I’ll have mine on the rocks

I sent a picture to my friend Pat; he responded with this article: Henrico fire crews investigating pontoon boat caught in James River

It was gone when we returned yesterday morning. As it turned out, that boat was one of the less interesting things we saw Tuesday. I hadn’t seen as many deer this winter as I’m used to.  A pair (at least; that’s all I saw) reappeared near Charlie’s Bridge Tuesday morning. I got this one first. It has an unusual looking face for a deer. Normally whitetail deer have slender, elongated snouts. The one on this deer is short, and so are its ears. It makes it look young (to me) but now I’m not as certain that’s the case:

That pudgy face and big eyes look young. But I'm not certain that's the case.

That pudgy face and big eyes look young. But I’m not certain that’s the case.

Take a look at that face, then at this one I took in almost precisely the same place in December of 2014 (bottom of the picture):

I believe the deer at the bottom of this picture (from December, 2014) is the same deer as the one above.

I believe the deer at the bottom of this picture (from December, 2014) is the same deer as the one above. And yes, there’s another deer behind it. They’re probably a pair.

I believe that is the same deer.

On Tuesday this deer was just a couple of feet away from the deer in the first picture. Just like the two deer in the second pictures. This is not a clear picture, but it’s easy to see her longer snout and longer ears. “Elegance” is an entirely human construct, but in my opinion she looks more elegant:  

She has a very direct gaze. Extremely mature.

She has a very direct gaze. Extremely mature.

We’d barely gotten back across Charlie’s Bridge when I saw the shape of a hawk perched high in the winter-stripped branches of a creekside sycamore. It allowed us to come close, as Red-shouldered hawks often do, but this was the best picture I could get:  

Red-shouldered hawk hunting over the creek at Pony Pasture.

Red-shouldered hawk hunting over the creek at Pony Pasture.

Red-shouldered hawks must have been enjoying the weather Tuesday, because as soon as we pulled back into our driveway, one flew low across our front yard. It landed in a magnolia tree at our neighbor’s house two doors down. I drove down and pulled up under the magnolia to take a picture through my open passenger side window. Cars make a perfect “blind” for urban wildlife photography. Magnolias are evergreens; it’s unusual to take an outdoor photograph with this green “glow” in Virginia in January:

Hard to believe it's Virginia in January; it looks like the tropics.

Hard to believe it’s Virginia in January; it looks like the tropics.

This isn’t my favorite squirrel picture ever but it’s a cute silhouette:

Umistakable silhoutte

Unmistakable silhouette

The mallards are pairing off and flocking up in a big way at Pony Pasture – they’re all over the park. I’m not sure how best to show the numbers; they were everywhere. I took similar pictures to this, only with ten or twelve ducks in them, in at least five different areas of the park Tuesday: 

Just one of many mallard squadrons patrolling the park Tuesday.

Just one of many mallard squadrons patrolling the park Tuesday.

I don’t normally make it to Pony Pasture on Saturdays but we had a relaxing hike  yesterday morning. This was another attractive pair: 

So beautiful in nice light

So beautiful in nice light

This morning I ran into some old friends and their dogs and the tone of the hike grew more social, which makes it hard for me to pay attention to the flora and fauna. But before we met, Mackey and Turner and I had a long encounter with an amiable and cooperative female Pileated Woodpecker. This is my favorite “still” shot of her; she’s so lovely:

Female Pileated woodpecker

Female Pileated woodpecker

The best part was she tolerated us long enough that I could get this above average (for me) quality video. It’s about twelve seconds long and it’s worth watching:  

Pileated woodpecker video  

Have an excellent week, all best, 

Jay 

Posted in Birds, Fun, James River, Pileated Woodpecker, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, squirrels, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Approximating equilibrium

29 January, 2017 Approximating equilibrium

My family experienced a significant upset at the beginning of the year and my blogging equilibrium (to the extent I have any) was brushed aside. I’m not quite back to baseline, but I’m getting there. More at the bottom of this post if you’re interested and haven’t been here recently. 

Mackey and Turner and I made it to Bryan Park on Thursday (January 26), our first visit in some time. We were rewarded with (among other things) the first pair of Hooded Mergansers I’ve seen this winter. The picture is not lovely but they’re nice-looking ducks:

Pair of Hooded mergansers in muddy water at Bryan Park

Pair of Hooded mergansers in muddy water at Bryan Park

The sun was bright on the edge of the soccer fields and the trees were full of bluebirds. I don’t recall seeing as many bluebirds as I’m seeing this year: 

Bluebird at Bryan Park Thursday. Look at that glow.

Bluebird at Bryan Park Thursday. Look at that glow.

Yesterday Evelyn and I went to Sub Rosa Bakery for lunch. It’s one of our favorite places in town – it comes with our highest recommendation. The food is divine, the coffee is spectacular, the warm, bright ambience is second to none. Eat there or get food to go – you will never regret it. I didn’t take a picture! Next time.

We walked almost literally next door and visited DEAR NEIGHBOR, a brand new gift shop in Churchill. Drop in when you’re down there; you’ll be happy you did.

Our original mission was to visit Caravati’s Architectural Salvage just across the river in Manchester. It was my first visit; Evelyn’s been there before. I loved it and can hardly wait to go back – it’s one of a kind. We walked out of Caravati’s and we were next door – we learned for the first time – to the Richmond Railway Museum.  Which is a.k.a the Richmond Railroad Museum; I think they’ll answer to either one. Of course I took pictures there. They had an enormous HO scale layout inside:

Small segment of the train layout inside the Richmond Railroad Museum

Small segment of the train layout inside the Richmond Railroad Museum

I took three short videos of a train going around the layout. If you like model trains – or trains at all – these videos are fun. Here’s the first one, about nine seconds long, a small model freight train going past bookshelves:

Rail museum video #1 

The second one is about the same length, but the train is coming straight toward the camera, it’s closer and with a much different perspective:

Rail museum video #2

The third and final video is around twenty-five seconds long, and it shows the same train passing some Norfolk and Western (N&W) coal hoppers. At our cabin in the Shenandoah Valley in the 1970’s and 1980’s, coal trains ran up and down the N&W main line several times every day. In those years I saw more N&W coal cars than any other kind of train car. The only sound better for going to sleep at night was whippoorwills:

Rail museum video #3

So to continue our whirlwind tour of downtown Richmond we went from the railroad museum to the new Tyler Potterfield Memorial Bridge, a.k.a. the “T-pot.” What a treasure that was. The only thing missing was Mackey and Turner! There were tons of other dogs though. I was able to get a dog-fix at will. Then we got across the bridge to the other side of the river and – more train tracks! This was a fun picture I took from the bridge:

Railroad tracks gleam in the evening sun at the south end of the Tyler Potterfield Bridge

Norfolk Southern railroad tracks gleam in the evening sun at the south end of the Tyler Potterfield Bridge

I know next to nothing about seagulls, except that at Pony Pasture we get about 95% Ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis). Because the T-pot bridge is closer to tidal water, there was a wide variety of gulls. I don’t know what kind these are (I’m sure someone will inform me; I’ll pass it on), but they were lovely:

Gleaming gulls

Gleaming gulls

Back a bit:

Graceful, gliding, gleaming gulls

Graceful, gliding, gleaming gulls

I’ll close with a picture of my canine posse at Pony Pasture this morning, but when we got back to the house there was a hawk screaming in the backyard. It was facing away from us and I took a picture or two of its back but, if you’ve ever seen a picture of any bird’s back, they are not fascinating. Raptors are so visually oriented, they always know when they’re being watched. As I was pointing the camera at its back, it turned around and jumped off the branch facing my direction:

Flying leap

Flying leap

Last picture of the day – my boys at Pony Pasture this morning:

Yuki (white), Turner (brown), Mackey (not white or brown) at the Wetlands at Pony Pasture this morning

Yuki (white), Turner (brown), Mackey (not white or brown) at the Wetlands at Pony Pasture this morning

Have a great week,

Jay

===========

So I’ve been blogging the past few weeks just to help myself stay grounded. Three weeks ago, on January 8, was my first blog post after our family was jolted. Evelyn wisely counseled me to hold off for a while, so I just put up this brief, inconsequential blog post: 8 January, 2017 Yellow and blue

It’s possible you’ve seen this blog post if you’re a regular. Eleven days had passed and I had regained enough equilibrium (and distance) to write this slightly more revealing blog post: 15 January, 2017 Jet boat in Hells Canyon

With these major and unexpected life changes, especially when they’re unanticipated, closure comes in fits and starts. Last week I’d processed enough to write 22 January, 2017 Downstream

Which leads to today, and here we all are. Many blog readers have known me for a long time, some for decades. Others haven’t been around as long. Our family experienced a similarly shattering event just over four years ago. Here’s a blog post I did then: 24 November, 2012 Good man

Next week, more than likely, I’ll be approximating equilibrium even more closely than this week.

===========

 

Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Trains | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Downstream

22 January, 2017            Downstream

Me, my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews. And one dog! Thanks for the photograph Bill.

Me, my brothers, sisters, nieces, nephew. And one dog! Thanks for the photograph Bill.

Thank you to our former neighbor and lifelong friend Bill for taking this picture at mom’s memorial service on Thursday (January 19) at the Bridgewater Volunteer Rescue Squad, where mom and dad were both life members. We all wore yellow and smiled that way at mom’s eightieth birthday party less than three months ago. I’m certain mom never thought about this, but it’s easy to imagine her thinking “I hope they all wear yellow and smile that way at my memorial service.” That’s me with my two brothers and two sisters and six nieces and one nephew. Only one of our dogs is in that picture. If all of the dogs owned by all of the people in that picture were there, we were gonna’ need a bigger rescue squad. 

Bill and his wife Liz moved in next door to our house in Maryland in the Fall of 1969 when I was eight years old and Shane was around seventeen months. The boy Shane is holding in this picture is around seventeen months. That only occurred to me as I was typing the second draft of this blog post. I will never stop being flabbergasted by what happens in life. That’s forty-seven years ago, close to half a century, and our families have stayed in intermittent regular contact the entire time. Liz was one of many people who shared her memories with the crowd at mom’s memorial service. I was so moved by both her manner and the content I asked Liz for a transcript of her talk. This caption is excerpted from that transcript:

“I never heard her say anything bad about anyone; I never saw her cranky or cross.” - Liz A., 19 January, 2017

“I never heard her say anything bad about anyone; I never saw her cranky or cross.” – Liz A., 19 January, 2017

Mom had flaws, possibly almost as many as I do. But if you spend half a century with a person and at your memorial service that person can say “I never heard her say anything bad about anyone; I never saw her cranky or cross” – you were a good human being, and that’s all there is to it. You can fake it a lot, but nobody can fake it for fifty years. 

The river of time doesn’t stop flowing, not even when your mother dies, a fact that continues to simultaneously startle and reassure me. The word “maudlin” was not part of my mother’s extensive vocabulary. Mom’s was a life in motion, but “sulk” was a verb you would never use when thinking about mom. Everything that’s occurred downstream of mom’s death has been, I believe, as she would approve. She would have loved that memorial service.

I’ve gotten a few more pictures this week; the usual stuff. I’ll put them up and sign off. I haven’t felt maudlin or sulked, but I’ve been out of my routine and uncharacteristically distractible. I can feel myself feeling better, then I slide back, then I begin feeling better again. Slide back again. It’s a process. A Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) came to eat earlier this week:

Flicker on the feeder, propping himself up with his tail

Flicker on the feeder, propping himself up with his tail

I love taking pictures of chickadees – they’re my favorite songbird. But watch a chickadee sometime and imagine what it’s like to photograph that and see how relaxed you feel. I’ll save you the effort of imagining: it’s not relaxing at all. Raptors, on the other hand, give the impression of being more “peaceful.” It’s an illusion, really – they kill to eat. But they sit still for long stretches of time, and they’re easy to locate once you get a sense of how they operate. Photographing them the way I do is relaxing. I drove over Friday to see if there were any eagles on the powerline by the river. It’s a long shot and the pictures don’t come out great but I took one anyway just to increase my understanding. This one was perched alone at 3:02 PM:  

Eagle on the tower, north bank of the river

Eagle on the tower, north bank of the river

I started driving back down Riverside Drive and saw a familiar shape in a sycamore tree dangling over the water. I took this picture on the south bank of the river about ¾ of a mile downstream from the preceding picture. You could walk to this tree in less than ten minutes from the gate at Huguenot Flatwater:

Bald eagle in a Sycamore, south bank of the river, just upstream from Huguenot Flatwater

Bald eagle in a Sycamore, south bank of the river, just upstream from Huguenot Flatwater

I’ve had a million birds on my feeders this week – it continues to astound me. Most of the pictures I take out the window are junk; I just like sitting here picking up my camera from time to time. It’s been raining all day (today) and this Northern Flicker (male, yellow shafted) stopped outside my office window to grab a bite:

The wethead is not dead

The wet head is not dead

This is where they get the name (it’s a subspecies) “yellow-shafted” (as opposed to “red-shafted):

1flickershaft01

I’ll write more next week and with any luck get a decent photo or two. All best, 

Jay

=========== 

It’s deeply ingrained in me to anticipate mom’s response to these posts. That anticipation will fade; that’s “part of the process” too. After I’ve gone over the post and Evelyn’s finished her thorough editing I click a button on the right side of the browser that says “Publish.” I knew mom would like it just because she had unconditional positive regard for me, but I also knew which parts she’d enjoy most. If I was putting the post up at a reasonable hour, I always looked forward to hearing back from her. I know she would have enjoyed this one.  

===========

Posted in Bald eagles, Birds, Fun, James River, Northern flicker, raptors, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Jet boat in Hells Canyon

15 January, 2017            Jet boat in Hells Canyon

Trip my mom took to celebrate her 80th birthday.

Trip my mom took to celebrate her 80th birthday.

My mom was uninterested in material goods but cherished experiences. She turned eighty last October. My siblings and I treated her to an elegant catered dinner with her entire family. She loved every minute. Mom treated herself to a different celebration a week earlier. I got this voicemail from her the week before her birthday:  

=====

“Hi Jay, no need to call back, we just got back from a fabulous all day trip on a jet boat in Hells Canyon on the Snake River, it was absolutely fabulous, so anyway talk to you later, love you, bye.”

=====

Mom unexpectedly died in her sleep last week in her own house in her own bed. Two months and two weeks after her jet boat jaunt. You can read her obituary here: Jude B. McLaughlin

I don’t know if that is the actual boat mom rode in, but it’s a jet boat in Hells Canyon on the Snake River and I have no doubt her ride looked just like that. My mom was a competent cook (she fed her hungry family well) and loved to sew, but she was happiest when she was moving. Mom did not let any grass grow under her.

When I was growing up during the 1970’s, my dad’s mother, Elizabeth, had a white 1965 Dodge Dart. When she stopped driving she gave it to my mom. Mom told dad “I love it – what a generous gift – please get it painted the color of the front door of our house.” That was the color of this sweatshirt, only brighter:

Mom's favorite color

Mom’s favorite color

You can tell mom was never shy. Front door that color, car that color, the more clothes that color (preferably from Goodwill, her favorite clothing store) the better. Last week Ev brought home these fragrant yellow primroses. It’s been comforting to have them on our dining room table:

From last week's post:

From last week’s post:

 Before mom went to sleep Tuesday evening I stood next to her while we looked at pictures from the belated family Christmas celebration held only four days earlier. Mom talked about each of her five adult children and her six grandchildren. She never played favorites, but she couldn’t stop talking about – and looking at pictures of – her seventeen month old grandson Wesson. I’m sad he never got to know her better, but I am overjoyed she had the opportunity to hold him and love him and snuggle with him and kiss him. Nothing made her happier than Wesson did. Mom was petting Mackey and Turner with one hand and clicking the right-arrow key on the computer while she cycled through the pictures. She was under treatment for mild heart problems but her death was 100% unanticipated. I went to sleep in the guest room. Mom’s an early riser so I was surprised she wasn’t up the next morning when Mackey and Turner and I were. Suddenly the phone began to ring at an ear-splitting volume and didn’t stop. I walked into her room and she was lying peacefully in bed under the covers next to the phone. Not moving an inch. I let it ring while I called 911 on my phone. At that literal instant – while I’m holding the phone with the 911 call to my ear – an EMT friend of hers pulled up in front of the house to see if she was ok. I rushed out and told the woman what had happened and she rushed in with her medical bag. They figured she’d been dead for a few hours.

My first blog post was in March of 2011. This is my 270th blog post since then. Every time I posted – every single time – I’d get an email a few minutes later saying “loved the blog!” or “Great blog Jay” or “love it!” or “beautiful!” or some brief, encouraging sentence.  This will be the first time I ever don’t get a response from her. You cannot imagine what it feels like to type that sentence.

===========

Mom and Dad retired and moved to Bridgewater, VA in 1990. This was only a couple of years after my accident and both quickly became EMTs on the Bridgewater Volunteer Rescue Squad. The whole reason they loved it up there was the small town values. From what I saw last week, those values have not eroded a whit in the quarter century they lived there. One of her EMT friends came to check in on her – just to check in on her – and that’s the one who arrived when I was there. Since mom’s was an “unattended death,” the EMTs are required by law to call a law enforcement officer. The sheriff walked in and walked up to me and shook my hand and said “Good afternoon Mr. McLaughlin, I’m sorry for your loss. See my car out there? I’ll be sitting in it filling out the paperwork. Please let me know if there’s any way I can assist you with this. I’ll be happy to make any calls for you.” I was moved again and again and again by the warmth and kindness and compassion of every person I met. Many of them knew mom quite well, and they grieved with me and felt the shock of our sudden loss.

I don’t know if you ever met my mom, but you’ve scarcely known a person as alive as she was, right up until the moment she said goodnight to me on her final evening. Mom had written her will years ago and kept it up to date; there was no confusion there. But even at eighty years old, neither she nor anyone else seriously considered life without her. I knew she wasn’t eternal but I always just had the sense that she’d outlive… everybody.

There is nothing – there is zero – that is better than having great parents. I have been fortunate to have the greatest ones ever. They’ll help me get through this with the values they instilled in me.

Mom’s funeral is being handled by Johnson’s Funeral Service in Bridgewater. Their web site has mom’s obituary on it. Here is a link to the obit on their site: Mom’s obituary at Johnson’s. This is the guest book on their site; people have already said far more kind and moving things about mom than I could ever write. Please read a few of them; they are lovely: Guestbook at Johnson’s. They also have a “Life Stories” section on the site. Only one person has submitted something so far; it is heartwarming. Please read it here: Life Story.   

Mom wasn’t a birder, but she always enjoyed the way I enjoy birds. I “got” another pair of Bald Eagles near the Willey Bridge yesterday. It’s not a great picture but it was a lucky find and mom knew that and loved it. It’s hard not to love a picture of Bald Eagles, even when the quality is sub-optimal:

Eagles yesterday

Eagles yesterday. It’s a privilege and a treat each time I see them. 

And here’s a little known fact about mom – when we were growing up, she didn’t like dogs! It was cats only until we met a dog named Cassie at the cabin in about 1978 and she  loved dogs for the rest of her life. She always enjoyed every dog I had. Here’s a picture of Mackey and Turner and Yuki at Pony Pasture this morning:

My personal therapy dog team.

My personal therapy dog team.

Have a great week. All best,

Jay

Posted in Rivers | 18 Comments

Yellow and blue

8 January, 2017 Yellow and blue

Yellow primroses:

1yellowprimrose

Fragrant yellow primrose

Dogs by the river:

1dogspp01-f-jpg

Therapy dogs at the river

Moonrise, Wednesday, January 4, 2017, Bridgewater, VA:

1moon20170104

Moonrise, 4 January, 2017, Bridgewater, VA

More next week!

All best,

Jay

Posted in Dogs, Flowers, James River, moon, Pony Pasture, Rivers, roses, Shenandoah Valey, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | 1 Comment