The kindness of strangers

7 February, 2016            The kindness of strangers

A young man I spent time with once bolted into the ladies room. And immediately undressed. And more. I’ve depended on the kindness of strangers. A bit of photography from this week, and I’ll elaborate on that story at the end of this post.

I lucked out (again) on a hawk picture Monday (1 February) from across the street. It’s not a brilliant picture and it could have been taken anywhere – but I’ve never gotten two flying Red-tails in decent light:

Pair of flying Red-tails - I saw four at the same time!

Pair of flying Red-tails – I saw four at the same time!

As an aside, I took that picture on February 1 – marking the tenth consecutive calendar month I’ve seen Red-tailed hawks in my neighborhood. So I’m sure they’re year-round hawks, here, at least this year-round. 

I’ve gotten lots of single Red-tails in decent light, and this one isn’t brilliant, but it’s perched in an actual tree. Which is a more attractive setting than the industrial grade galvanized  power line tower where I often photograph them. I looked at the time stamp; I took this picture three minutes after I took the one of the flying pair. So it must have been near here:

A Red-tail perched on an actual tree.

A Red-tail perched on an actual tree.

Just to give an idea, this is the view from my driveway. It’s zoomed way in, but it’s neat to be able to stand near my car and tell if there are hawks on the tower:

The view (at 200x zoom) from my driveway.

The view (at 200x zoom) from my driveway.

I began trimming some branches back so I’d still have a clear view when the leaves come out in a month or two. Evelyn noted that I don’t muster that much energy when it comes to household chores. When I told one of my brothers about that, he described the scene he visualized. Me out in the driveway with boots and jeans and gloves and an ax and a chainsaw, cutting and  splitting and hauling heavy loads of firewood. Then going inside and saying “I’m sorry honey, that Swiffer™ is just a little bit too much for me.” They both know me too well.

I’ve been off my regular routes this week and haven’t taken a million photographs. Which is about how many I have to take in order to get two or three good ones. So here are the few I did get.

All male buffleheads look the same; if you’ve seen one you’ve seen every one. But they’re striking birds and I always enjoy seeing them. They are never (in my experience) close to shore. It’s nice when they cooperate by not diving as I press the shutter button:

Nattily attired male Bufflehead at Pony Pasture.

Nattily attired male Bufflehead at Pony Pasture.

Just a few steps later this pretty female Downy Woodpecker hopped on a log and began tapping:

Female Downy Woodpecker. Stripes don't make her look fat.

Female Downy Woodpecker. Stripes don’t make her look fat.

If you’re interested, it’s easy to distinguish male Downy Woodpeckers from females. Males are identical to females except see that white stripe just above her eye? The back third (roughly) of that stripe on a male is bright red.

This is not an award-winning picture (far from it) of an American Robin (Turdus migratorius). All robins we see in North America are American Robins. Here’s one I saw Friday afternoon in Glen Allen (that’s in North America):  

Only in America:

Only in America:

There’s another robin called the European Robin but – you guessed it – not in North or South America. All robins you see (if you’re anywhere in the U.S.) are American Robins. They’re considered a sign of Spring, and they’re mighty cheerful, but it’s easy to find a robin 365 days a year here in Richmond.

There are daffodils coming out of the ground – I took a couple of pictures – but I haven’t seen any flowers yet. They’re imminent. I’ll post one when I get it. I wouldn’t be surprised to get one this week. We’ll see.

It was ten years ago this week that Ivory and Nicky and I set out on our journey to the Yukon Territory. My old friend Cris surprised us at Starbucks to see us off. Groundhog Day, 2006. Completely by chance he had a free morning today. He joined Mackey and Turner and Yuki and me for our hike this morning. It’s startling how fast ten years go by! I kept a blog on that trip but I wasn’t much of a photographer then. The first post just has one unoriginal picture. This is a link to the blog post from the day I left: February 2, 2006. There are a few posts in between, then one from seven days later. My friend Pat had flown to Vancouver International Airport (YVR) in – I swear I’m not making this up – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada. We started driving north through the Canadian Rockies. In this post there is some text (a lot) but also two pictures. Click on Brief update to see the post. One picture is Ivory and Nicky climbing a snowbank next to the highway. Pat’s making a sandwich on the hood of my green Subaru. The pictures are tiny; click on them and they get larger. The second picture is of the snowy Canadian Rockies.

The trip to the Yukon was so Ivory and Nicky and I could volunteer at the “other” 1,000 mile sled dog race – the Yukon Quest. Twenty-three teams started yesterday at 3:00 PM our time (11:00 AM Alaska Standard Time) in Fairbanks, AK. The race has been held for over thirty years. The fastest it’s ever been done is 8 days, 14 hours. When we were there in 2006, Lance Mackey won, which is why I have a dog named “Mackey”. While we were in Whitehorse Ivory and Nicky and I had the visit of a lifetime at Muktuk Kennel, owned by Frank Turner, seventeen time Yukon Quest finisher. That’s why I have a dog named “Turner”!

If you’re interested in this nerdy sort of thing, it was 10,300 miles from pulling out of my driveway to pulling back in. You drive from Richmond (VA) to Seattle then take a right and drive 2,000 miles north. I pulled out of my driveway on February 2 of 2006. and pulled back in on March 9. I spent ten days driving up, two weeks in the Yukon, and ten days driving back. With lots of stops to visit friends in Kentucky, Colorado, Washington and Oregon – flip through that old blog if you want to see some pictures. Including a few of me from a decade ago! 

Enough for the week – a story, then I’m off until next Sunday. Have a great week!

All best,



The kindness of strangers

A guy I spent time with years ago bolted into the ladies locker room. Some time in the early 2000’s. We had just finished swimming and were walking back to the men’s locker room. He didn’t give any warning – he doesn’t talk – and one moment he was next to me and the next he had vanished. Behind the door that said LADIES in large, clear capital letters. There was zero chance he would hurt himself or anyone else, so it wasn’t an emergency. I was in a mild panic when a pleasant looking middle-aged woman left the pool and walked toward me. “Ma’am, my friend just went in there” I said, motioning toward the closed door. “Would you mind asking him if he’d come back out here?” She smiled understandingly and said it would be no problem at all. She walked in then came back out a second or two later. “He’s in there but he took off all his clothes. I’ll help him get dressed again. It will only take a moment.” I thanked her sincerely. Remember, this is a random human being neither of us have ever met.

About another ten seconds passes and she comes back out and with an apologetic shrug says “he pooped on the floor.” Fortunately for both of us there is no shortage of kind strangers. She helped me round up some female staff members who went in there and cleaned up and cleaned my buddy up and brought him back out. Dressed and ready to go.

I am so fortunate. Most of us are so fortunate. I suspect some people who read this blog are strangers to me. I’m sure you’re a kind person! It makes the world go ‘round.   


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, buffleheads, Downy woodpecker, Fun, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, robin, Starbucks and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s