Mexican tadpole

18 May, 2014     Mexican tadpole

In English: “tadpole” In Spanish: “renacuajo”

In English: “tadpole” In Spanish: “renacuajo”

My mother, like my father and my siblings, is a lifelong learner. A week ago today (on Mother’s Day!) she was with friends in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Mom attends the Universidad Internacional Center for Linguistic and Multicultural Studies in Cuernavaca. She’s gone every year for ages and ages. She showed last week’s blog post (Swallowing my pride) to her friends in Cuernavaca and if you recall (or not) it has a picture of a “renacuajo” (in English that means “tadpole”). And she learned a new word! And so did I! And now so did you!


Have I also mentioned mom is a doula? An EMT? A life member of Rescue 15? Has two cardiac saves? Lived in Switzerland for a year? Taught French? Swims every day? Is a mother of five? A grandmother of five? I got the swimming ability, but not the language ability. I’ve tried to learn other languages (e.g. Spanish and French) before but when I look at a textbook it’s all Greek to me. Also, if you don’t know what a doula is, click on that link. It’s worth knowing about. I’m guessing you know what an EMT is.


Prepare to be overwhelmed with this blog post (if you’re not already). It’s an overwhelming time of year. Overwhelming in a good way. Here in central Virginia, everything is growing. There is a tidal wave of DNA being passed along to fresh new generations everywhere. The leading edge of the wave rode in on the back of a trillion grains of pollen, unwelcome to many. But look what came with the pollen – dogwoods, roses, honeysuckle, pine trees, gardenias, red maples, peonies, redbuds, clover, buttercups, it is a privilege to be here in central Virginia in May. And mammals and insects and birds and reptiles and amphibians and fish, all beginning new generations. This is no time to be indoors. I’m typing this indoors, I regret to say, but Evie and Mackey and Turner and I had a Grade A hike at Pony Pasture this morning and I’ll be back outside  again in a few minutes.


There is so, so, so much going on – so much growing. Look at all these dragonflies:

A dragonfly at Bryan Park

A dragonfly at Bryan Park

Warming up on a cool morning at Pony Pasture

Warming up on a cool morning at Pony Pasture


Same log, different dragonfly

Same log, different dragonfly


A different angle, fine when you have 28,000 tiny eyes.

A different angle, fine when you have 28,000 tiny eyes.

Dragonflies leave a mystery for me every year. Surely someone who reads this blog must know the solution. The dragonflies don’t leave the mystery; I believe it’s some predator. Each May when the dragonflies are out in force, the sunny spots on the paths at Pony Pasture near the water are just strewn with dragonfly wings. Here’s one picture, but the trail just glitters when you’re hiking near sunrise. I don’t know if it’s birds or snakes or frogs or turtles or other bugs but something just gorges on dragonflies. If anyone can solve this mystery, please enlighten me. Better yet, enlighten US, and put the answer in a comment on this blog. Or if you’re shy, send me the answer and I’ll post it credited or uncredited – as you wish – on my next post:

On a wing and didn't have a prayer

On a wing and didn’t have a prayer

Honeysuckle is my favorite plant anywhere, ever, of any kind. Even though I love corn on the cob. And tomatoes. And gardenias and pawpaws and redbuds and dogwoods and oak trees and Christmas trees and lily of the valley and hydrangeas and peonies and red maples and I even like dandelions but if I could only have one it would be honeysuckle. Watermelon, I like watermelon too, and pumpkins, and apples and oranges and bananas and peanuts and rice and oatmeal – there are a lot of plants. I mentioned this a year or so ago but perhaps you’ve seen both white and yellow honeysuckle. As it turns out, all honeysuckle blooms white and turns yellow as it gets older. I will never, ever, ever tire of that smell or sight.

Here’s just one of the probably two hundred honeysuckle pictures I’ve taken this year (so far):

That is spring, right there.

That is spring, right there.

On one of my many hikes at PP this week Mackey stopped in the sunlight to wait for me. Mackey is a very sober-minded dog and takes life seriously more often than not. But he was cheerful that morning at Pony Pasture when he took a quick break. In this picture he looks like he’s laughing. And even though it’s from a song about a girl (specifically a brown-eyed girl), it reminded me of the line “Standing in the sunlight laughing.” It’s a pretty song, take a minute (take three minutes and six seconds) and listen to Van Morrison‘s Brown Eyed Girl

"Standing in the sunlight laughing"

“Standing in the sunlight laughing”

The same morning we were leaving and we got back to the parking lot and looked up and there were Red-bellied woodpeckers in a tree. I took this picture while I was leaning against my car. It was like shooting fish in a barrel:

Took this picture while leaning against my car in the parking lot. Isn't that fun?

Took this picture while leaning against my car in the parking lot. Isn’t that fun?

I mentioned peonies earlier in this post. They are everywhere in our yard, mostly thanks to Evelyn saving them from my botanical ineptitude. Like the honeysuckle and multiflora rose, their fragrance fills the space anywhere nearby. We have them in the living room, the bedroom, the dining room, the kitchen, they’re all over the house. Our friend Marion is an accomplished gardener and tells us these particular peonies are Festiva maxima.

Festiva Maxima

Festiva maxima

I like clover for many of the same reasons I love honeysuckle. It’s cheerful, for one, or at least it appears that way to me. And it’s springy and it’s outdoorsy and it smells wonderful. Mainly I like honeysuckle and clover and multiflora rose because you can be the most botanically inept guy on your block and still be overrun with all that nice stuff. This white clover was at Pony Pasture:



And this purple clover was at Bryan Park:

Which is more gorgeous? Both.

Which is more gorgeous? Both.

I was hiking around there with my buddy Ethan (the guy who was my Guest photographer in April) when we saw the clover. We also saw this Eastern Phoebe sitting on branch waiting for a bug:

That is a lovely bird

That is a lovely bird

When I was in the driveway this week photographing honeysuckle and peonies, birds were going back and forth to the feeder. I know it should be obvious what this is, but I ran out of gas (in the ornithological sense) while trying to identify it. Feel free to identify it in the comments space or send me an email. Or leave it a mystery. Perhaps it’s a house sparrow, or not:

That is a classic "lucky shot." Nice bird, nice light, nice rose in the background.

That is a classic “lucky shot.” Nice bird, nice light, nice rose in the background.

Sometimes on blog posts you can’t find anything to write about or photograph, especially when you’re committed at a blog post a week. Other blog posts are like this one when you have to leave out pictures and words. So be it.

I was thinking about how much it’s like heaven to live here this time of year. I was recently reading Mark Twain’s immortal Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. At the beginning of the book he’s in the house with the Widow Douglas’s sister Miss Watson. She’s talking to him about heaven (“the good place”) and “the bad place.” She says that in heaven “all a body would have to do there was to go around all day long with a harp and sing, forever and ever.” Huck Finn wrote “So I didn’t think much of it. But I never said so.  I asked her if she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she said not by a considerable sight.  I was glad about that, because I wanted him and me to be together.” I suspect he’d enjoy himself here in central Virginia.

Anyway. I expect that everyone who can get outdoors is getting outdoors right now. I encourage you to go beyond your normal “loop” if you’re here in central Virginia if your “loop” doesn’t contain both honeysuckle and multiflora rose. Because just this week, maybe – maybe if we’re lucky – for the next ten days, you’ll be able to smell these two at once. A little preview for when you get to “the good place.”


Meanwhile, have a great week, all best,


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 Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!). Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mexican tadpole

  1. jude mclaughlin says:

    Wonderful pics and post. I especially liked the libelulas, “e” accented. They’re here in Mexico, too. I learned the word because a fellow student (from Alaska) had on a libelula necklace. Question: Does anyone know why, in a foreign language, it’s easy to remember some words after hearing them or seeing them once, and others, you have to look up several times?

  2. Hi mom!
    And thanks for the comment! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures and the post. I still don’t know what a libelula is! And I CERTAINLY am unable to shed any meaningful light on difficulties in acquiring a foreign language. Have a great day,



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