Unlike Bill Clinton, I DO inhale!

24 April, 2016            Unlike Bill Clinton, I DO inhale!

And you should too! At least if you’re here in central Virginia. The smells are beyond compare. The lilacs in our backyard bloom more enthusiastically every April, no doubt due to the Miracle-Gro Turner dutifully applies every morning when he sprints out to make sure they didn’t disappear during the night:  

If you're near a lilac, inhale!

If you’re near a lilac, inhale! 

Until I began reading about trees last year, I never even knew locust flowers smelled good! How I was unaware of that is beyond me; now I stick my face in every bunch I pass. Next time you see some, by all means inhale. There were some pretty ones this morning at Pony Pasture, but I took this picture mid-week beside the CSX train tracks near Tredegar Iron Works

Fragrant blossoms from a Black Locust growing next to the railroad tracks:

Fragrant blossoms from a Black Locust growing next to the railroad tracks:

Our wisteria has faded; it was the first flower I inhaled this spring. I took this picture two weeks ago in our backyard:

1wisteria01

April wisteria in our backyard: 

We’ve gotten some rain this month (April showers bring May flowers) but it’s been generally temperate. My friend Ethan and I have made many trips to Bryan Park. He took several excellent pictures of a Great Blue Heron near the creek. He took a number that were more technically perfect than this, but I’m fond of heron pictures that give a different “look.” He took this one about mid-string; I like it because it looks like the heron is laughing:

Photo my friend Ethan took at Bryan Park this week. A laughing Blue Heron.

Photo my friend Ethan took at Bryan Park this week. A laughing Blue Heron.

We’re having a marvelous time watching the pair of Red-tailed hawks nesting at Bryan Park. Red-tails are wily and camera shy, but they’re smart and curious and observant and this one was watching us watch her:

I don't know what she is "thinking." But she is undeniably aware.

I don’t know what she is “thinking.” But she is undeniably aware.

I’m still watching the new osprey nest near Stony Point. I’m guessing this is the female, since they sometimes have more dark speckling on their breast. They’re a bit larger than the males too, but I still have a lot to learn. Like the red-tail, they keep careful watch when they’re being watched. But they don’t hide:

Raptors all watch, watch, watch.

Raptors all watch, watch, watch.

This isn’t a beautiful picture, because I’m a long way away and zoomed in a lot. But it’s the talon of an osprey, and you can see the kind of hardware they’ve evolved to capture and hold squirming, live fish:

Fish never see these coming. Boy that would give me nightmares.

Fish never see these coming. Boy that would give me nightmares.

Last week I included a blurb about a trip I took to New Zealand twenty-five years ago. After two weeks in New Zealand I flew to Australia for another two weeks. I’ll continue a brief description of that trip now.

I was on the plane from New Zealand to Australia with an Australian woman who was returning home. The Australian woman told me – I’ll never forget this, or her accent – that “the problem with women from New Zealand is they all walk around like they’ve got a stick up their bums!” An observation I’d not heard before or since.

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Australia – the more things change, the more things stay the same

I love to travel. But I also love to not-travel.

I love to travel. But I also love to not-travel.

This is a picture of me in Sydney, Australia in 1991: 

Sunny Sydney, 1991 (wearing my triathlon t-shirt)

Sunny Sydney, 1991 (wearing my triathlon t-shirt)

This is a picture of me in the Yukon Territory, fifteen years and almost 8,000 miles later:

Not-sunny Yukon Territory

Not-sunny Yukon Territory, 2006 (wearing my sled dog race coat) 

If you enjoy reading, a man named Bill Bryson wrote a book about Australia in 2000 called In a Sunburned Country. If interested, here is the First Chapter in the New York Times, and this is the New York Times Book Review. Here’s a line Mr. Bryson wrote about Australia: “Its creatures seemed to have evolved as if they had misread the manual.

But. I was there around ten years before Mr. Bryson’s book was published, and this is a bit of my experience.

I left Christchurch, on the South Island of New Zealand on 1 March, 1991 bound for Cairns in northeast Australia. This was twenty-five years ago – and this is the first picture I took in Australia:

I photograph lizards in America. I photograph lizards in Australia.

I photograph lizards in America. I photograph lizards in Australia.

Hmm. Looks suspiciously like pictures I take here in Richmond. Naturally in Australia of course I took a ride on a railroad train; I took pictures of that too:

I photograph trains in America. I photographed trains in Australia.

I photograph trains in America. I photographed trains in Australia.

As I leaf through the pictures I took then, and read my journals from that trip, two things strike me: 1. I’m interested in the same stuff wherever I go, whenever I go there and 2. I’m much less judgmental now than I was then. Here’s a photograph of the Australian Coat of Arms. On the left is a kangaroo and on the right is an emu. I was told they are on the Coat of Arms because they are unable to take a step backwards – they symbolize forward progress. Wikipedia has a somewhat different explanation, but wikipedia wasn’t our tour guide. They are both native to Australia:  

Australian coat of arms. Kangaroo on the left, emu on the right.

Australian coat of arms. Kangaroo on the left, emu on the right.

There were plenty of real kangaroos around – sort of like whitetail deer in Virginia,  only more placid. I don’t recall where I took this picture, only that it was in an unremarkable spot. Equivalent to the side of the road here in the United States:

A lot of animals "know" they're being watched. I don't know what they think or if they think, but they're aware.

A lot of animals “know” they’re being watched. I don’t know what they think or if they think, but they’re aware.

Since I’m on the subject of things I love wherever I go, I can’t leave out dogs: 

A boy and his dog, Australia-style:

A boy and his dog, Australia-style:

The whole trip was on Qantas

The tail of a Qantas jet in 1991:

The tail of a Qantas jet in 1991:

Have you ever seen the movie Rainman from 1988 with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise? “Rainman” is Dustin Hoffman’s character, and there’s a four-minute scene where he mentions the safety of flying Qantas. It was rated R and this clip has a bit of inappropriate language, so don’t watch this if that offends you: Qantas never crashed

That whole vacation lasted six weeks. The first two were in New Zealand, the second two in Australia and the final two weeks at the end of my next blog post (I didn’t need a passport for the final two weeks).

Next Sunday is May 1! I hope to see you then!

All best,

Jay

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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, Bryan Park, Dogs, Fun, international travel, James River, ospreys, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Trains and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Unlike Bill Clinton, I DO inhale!

  1. Jackie says:

    Love it! I inhale too , Spring has sprung!

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