“Sometimes it’s hard to think of the world as a good place…”

22 March, 2020           “Sometimes it’s hard to think of the world as a good place…”

“…but I got to tell you, there are people who don’t know me at all, sending me food.” – a woman in Louisiana whose husband has coronavirus, as quoted in the New York Times (NYT) on Thursday, March 19. The title of the article is Her Facebook Friends Asked if Anyone Was Actually Sick. She Had an Answer. if you’d care to read it. 

There’s more than slight irony in the fact that the opening sentence of last week’s blog post was me lamenting what I read in the NYT, reflecting my own unspoken thought that “sometimes it’s hard to think of the world as a good place.”  And the opening sentence of this week’s blog post is me being encouraged by what I read in the NYT. That people help complete strangers, just because it makes them feel good to help complete strangers. That the world really is a good place. That’s a great example of how evolution works. We all know that complete stranger could as easily be us. Every day is a new day. Most human beings are excellent, excellent people. 

No owls this week – the consecutive week of owls streak broke after an astounding sixteen weeks – but flowers are blooming. Yay. And ospreys are getting more active. Everything is getting more active. I think I’ll open with Virginia Bluebells from Pony Pasture this week. A delicate, graceful, reliable, bright sign of the onset of Spring: 

Virginia Bluebell greets Spring on the banks of the James River

I wish the light had been better for this image, but oh well. I saw an American  bullfrog this week! On the Virginia Herpetological Society’s page on bullfrogs it says “Males are generally smaller than females”. I’ve seen a few bullfrogs before and this was really, really big – I’m almost certain she’s a female. Check this out: 

My first bullfrog of 2020:

Speaking of Deep Run, I saw a white squirrel there again this week! It’s probably the same one I’ve been seeing. Have a look: 

My first white squirrel of 2020

The first flower colors I notice in Spring are (where I’m looking) the simultaneous bright yellow outbursts of daffodils, dandelions and forsythias. But now of course there are bluebells (see above) and steadily evolving bouquet of eye catching blooms. Speaking of bouquets – Evelyn arranged these camellias from our yard: 

Evelyn’s camellia arrangement

Look at that plant after she took those blooms inside. Early Spring Camellia bush, in the picture dictionary next to “prolific”: 

The camellia bush those came from after she cut the flowers! That is just crazy.

Wow – I mentioned ospreys in the third paragraph and I haven’t used a picture yet. I see at least three active nests on a short stretch of Parham/Chippenham, and I’m not even looking super hard. I’m not sure what the story with these two is. Maybe they’re young. Or maybe I have more to learn about nest building. But I think they should be making more progress than this:

They are not building a nest really fast. I’m not sure what’s up. We’ll see.

When we were headed back up the creek this morning I saw and heard a male Pileated Woodpecker hammering high in an old sycamore. I was working my way closer to him for a better image but couldn’t find the spot I wanted. I like the bare background though. You can see a few sycamore seed pods in there and even a handful of pawpaw buds. You can tell he’s a male – barely in this picture – by the red stripe at the back of his beak. If I didn’t know it was there I probably couldn’t see it – I’ll get a better image soon: 

Male Pileated woodpecker, working up high

I forgot I had people pictures this week – thanks to schedule disruptions from coronavirus/COVID-19. We had a nice four human/three dog hike at Deep Run one day this week. We of course faced the mirror (window); the dogs faced us. Couldn’t be helped:

Weekday hiking posse

Mid-March Redbuds – it’s hard to look at these and not feel happy.

Mackey and Turner and I were almost back to the car when I decided to take them out on the rocks so I could get their picture with a nice background. There was a woman named Betsy at the water’s edge with her two dogs and she offered to take our picture. Thank you Betsy!:

Thank you Betsy! Mackey, Turner and me, 11:48 this morning:

Some readers of this blog are familiar with the Highland County Maple Festival. It happens on the second and third Saturday in March and 2020 was the 62nd consecutive year – but it got postponed due to Coronavirus/COVID-19! I’d planned on attending with friends (and restocking my maple syrup stash) but they called it off! Fortunately many of the syrup makers have web sites and they’ll ship syrup to you. Yay! Here are a handful of links to Highland County syrup makers, but there are many more. It’s awesome on, of course, pancakes, waffles, French Toast, yogurt, ice cream – I love it with all manner of foods. It’s great on sweet potatoes. I use it 365 mornings a year on my oatmeal. 

I’m putting links to eight syrup camps on here, but there are many more in Highland County. I rotate through ordering from about five of them but they’re all fantastic. I’m relatively certain I had a sweet tooth in utero, long before I had anything that could actually be called a “tooth.” Also in my family the sweet tooth was on the Y chromosome. Mom loved sweets too, but Dad’s enthusiasm was more constant and outward and evident. When waitresses asked for our drink orders I can still hear Dad this very minute saying “sweet iced tea!” and still sounding like a little kid when he was seventy-five years old. His eyes were real, real bright too. When Dad was reading it was like he’d departed for another planet. Not when he was asking for sweet iced tea. A lot of stuff made my Dad happy. Nothing more than his family, but he loved reading, learning, pocketknives, flashlights, dogs, guns, conversation, grandchildren (anybody’s grandchildren, to be honest, but especially his own), baseball caps, gadgets, being outdoors, being indoors, sailing, ships, the Navy, Penn State, as I type I realize it’s sort of an infinite list. Dad didn’t think anything or anybody was boring – he always wanted to learn a little more. Sweet iced tea though – a signature request of Dad’s. I had more than a slight impression he liked saying it as much as he liked drinking it. 

Wandered off on my Dad Digression! Here are eight places you can buy fantastic Virginia maple syrup from the comfort of your own home. Or I guess from the comfort of wherever you’re connected to the internet: 

Back Creek Farms

Rexrode’s Sugar Orchard 

Duff’s Sugar Camp 

Sugar Tree Country Store

Puffenbarger’s Sugar Orchard 

Mill Gap Farms 

Tonoloway Farm

Southernmost Maple 

I left a handful out. To see all of the maple syrup I’m aware of in Highland County click here: Highland County Maple Products 

I’m going to sign off. I was really, really moved by the woman in the NYT article about  her and her husband who has coronavirus. And that she was feeling bad, and it was the kindness of strangers that turned her around. Of all the heartwarming things we  experience in our lives, few are more uplifting than the kindness of strangers. 

Have an excellent week, 


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, highland maple festival, James River, love, newfaze, ospreys, People, Pileated Woodpecker, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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