A lot of life

13 January, 2012    A lot of life

I finally made it back to the river for an early walk yesterday. We hadn’t gone early in quite some time. The dogs and I were fortunate to have Evelyn join us; we picked her up at 7:15. The weather’s been up and down and very uncertain. Thursday dawned cloudy and cool but the barometer and the thermometer were rising and there was a lot of life, everywhere we turned.

Just as we got to the river’s edge we saw this attractive trio enjoying the morning. One of my polymath/wildlife identifying friends (Kim) tentatively identified them as Common Mergansers (Mergus merganser). This picture shows two males and a female. If anyone identifies them as something other than mergansers, please let me know. But the ID is solid:

A handsome family of mergansers

The buffleheads were a little more cooperative yesterday morning – but only a little. This picture’s okay:

Lone bufflehead

I took this one just as a duck dove. Or perhaps this is an elusive freshwater killer whale breaching:

A bufflehead - or an orca? Hard to be certain from this angle.

I wrote a post in mid-December called “Don’t look down!”, sage advice for drivers in our family (and elsewhere). The post consisted entirely of pictures taken while looking  down. Fortunately Evelyn looked down on our hike this morning and saw this little reptile. I’m not certain if that’s a little boy or a little girl but it sure is cute. Kim thinks it’s an eastern river cooter (Pseudemys concinna concinna):

A fetching January visitor on a fetching glove

We got all the way around to the other side of the pasture before I asked Evelyn to take this picture of the four of us:

Roux on the left, Mackey is black, Turner on the right. What a great crew.

So, ducks, turtles, dogs, people and more. That all falls under the “fauna” category. When I think of “flora” I think of green plants, i.e. chlorophyll and photosynthesis and all that excellent stuff. Does fungus count? Evelyn thinks this fungus resembles a daffodil; you can see why:

Daffodil sans chlorophyll

Followers of this blog will know the flora and the fauna is in the foreground, but the river itself is always the backdrop. The flora and the fauna come and go but the river is eternal. Early morning, early winter, captivating as always:

Early morning, early winter. Wow. What's not to like?

My arm is getting better, although it’s not back to Christmas Eve (the day before I hurt it) form yet, which I suppose will take a while. I swam once last week and although it was slow and awkward, it was nice to be back in the water. I have  another checkup on January 30 and hopefully can remove my sling. I’ve already regained a lot of mobility and the pain’s gone away. I even drove my stick shift (my “dog car”) yesterday for the first time since I hurt my arm. It was a good thing; we took the dogs to the river in it and things were muddy down there. Fine for my dog car (2001 Subaru Forester with >200,000 miles). For my “people car” (2011 Subaru Forester with <1/10 that mileage) not so much.

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13 January, 2012    Bird by Bird

I’m juggling things on the blog for the new year. I’m doing minor rewrites to my “More about me” and “This blog is about…” sections (links at the top of the page). To lend a somewhat clearer perspective on the direction I want to go with my blog. I’m also compiling brief character sketches of the fascinating people it’s been my privilege to work with for the past eighteen years or so. Of course it will be entirely anonymous, although many people who know me will know these folks as well. Most of them are like my second family.

I first met them in the hospital. When I got out I was still moving slow but wanted to be active. In 1993 began coaching Special Olympics swimming at the Tuckahoe YMCA. Special Olympics describes their mission as providing sports training and competition for “children and adults with intellectual disabilities.” It took around five minutes in that environment to realize I had as much to learn as I did to teach. That realization carried me into my education in Rehabilitation Counseling and to the work I do today.
My first night in the hospital was in the ICU on Tuesday, April 5, 1988 and I have zero recollection. Including my five days in a coma and another eight or ten in post-traumatic amnesia, I have no recollection of my first two weeks or so there. Little tiny memories begin to emerge as the days go by, but they’re fuzzy. I was discharged for good some time in mid-June. I have a very, very crisp recollection of a conversation with a male nurse shortly before I left. I was gaunt and haggard and my head was shaved and my scars were livid. I had a cast on my right arm and one on my left leg when I was discharged. I was using a wheelchair. I remember that nurse clearly. He was middle-aged and chubby and very, very, very effeminate and vaguely maternal. He put one hand on his hip  and with the other hand waggled his index finger at me and said “Remember. We’re all a lot more the same than we are different.” I never, ever, ever forgot that. In April it will be twenty-four years since my accident and that’s a lesson I’ll never forget. We’re a lot more the same than we are different.

When I work with people with disabilities I don’t learn about the theory of relativity or economic analysis or climate change and zero about religion. I don’t learn about fine dining or sustainable agriculture or artificial intelligence. But I get unvarnished looks at what makes people happy. A lot of the people I work with say what they think and feel – with zero spin. It’s refreshing and enjoyable and instructive. Many people I work with don’t spend time on the past or the future – the time they’re interested in is now, more even than the most enlightened arhat. You don’t find people like that everywhere you go. I get to spend time with them every day. What a treasure.

More to come.

About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Dogs, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!). Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to A lot of life

  1. I’m excited to read the stories of the people who have made a difference in your life!

  2. Evelyn says:

    That fungus looks lemony! It was a beautiful morning for a walk and certainly full of life and love. So glad I was able to join you.

  3. Liz says:

    Bill says the birds are mergansers and the two on the right are male and the one on the left is a female. Love those buffleheads.

    • Hi Liz,
      Thanks for the confirmation on the mergansers. Glad you like the buffleheads too. Someday I’ll get a good shot of them. The waterfowl population really changes here in the winter. Normally it’s mainly mallards and Canada geese everywhere you turn (it still is) but when winter sets in we get this nice new crowd. Tell Bill thanks and have a great day,


  4. Kevin and Jenny says:

    Jay –

    I remember enjoying the short stories and Gumby columns you wrote at Gonzaga. I am excited to see you branching out, and look forward to reading your character sketches.


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