Back on track – at least for today 

12 September, 2021 Back on track – at least for today 

Back on track – at least for today 

Photo by Evelyn who told me “That dog would follow you into a burning building.”

Two days later Evelyn and I each went to work in the morning. That afternoon we came home and loaded Mackey in the car and the three of us drove up to our vet’s office. Behind their office is a grassy, shady space surrounded by the building on one side and woods on the other sides, and they brought a blanket out for Mackey and Evelyn and the vet and me to sit on. It was the right thing and the best thing and I know my parents would understand that I felt even worse than when they died. 

Another thing my parents would understand is the world does not come to a standstill to accommodate our personal grief. There is no better example than the river. It just flows and flows, no matter what else happens. Turner and I still go down there. It took a while though. This was our first trip back, three weeks to the day after Mackey died: 

Our first trip to the river in the post-Mackey era

Another thing mom and dad understood was you don’t sit around and hope you’ll finally begin to feel better. Like most excellent things, feeling better takes energy and effort. Walking with Turner at the river is an outstanding way to wake up. Fortunately I was registered for and more or less trained for a short triathlon. I rode up to Luray, Virginia in August with my friend Pat and his wife Megan and the three of us completed the Luray Sprint Triathlon. Megan got an award in her age group! Crazy. I didn’t photograph it (I finished almost an hour after her!) but it was awesome. As usual I got a finisher’s medal, shown here. My first triathlon was at William and Mary – in 1987! So this finisher’s medal commemorates my thirty-four years as a triathlete! I just sorted the race results of the Luray race by age. There were sixty-seven finishers who hadn’t been alive as long as I’ve done triathlons! And this was a small race! I loved it. Here’s my awesome finisher’s medal: 

Finisher’s medal from the Luray Sprint Triathlon – 8/22/2021

This is not every medal from every triathlon I’ve finished since 1987 (!), but this is a lot of them: 

34 years of finisher’s medals. I train and race so I can eat ice cream.

I’ve gotten – as you may imagine – more than a handful of pictures I enjoy since my last blog post. I normally don’t have a favorite picture after one week between blog posts and I really don’t have one this time. But a few weeks back I saw this Five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) with what appears to be  an inchworm in its mouth; it’s a nice picture. Unless of course you’re the inchworm: 

Five-lined skink having fresh inchworm for breakfast

I took a reasonable picture of a Green heron (Butorides virescens) around a month ago: 

Green heron (Butorides virescens)

I also haven’t seen a million toads this year but I got a reasonable image the same day I photographed that heron. This is a Fowler’s toad (Anaxyrus fowleri): 

Fowler’s toad. The only way you can see these guys is if they hop.

I nearly forgot – I got a surprise picture Thursday evening – in our backyard! Turner and I were getting ready for our evening walk when he sprinted to the back garden. I suspect this Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) climbed (as quickly as possible) one of our back trees to reach the top of this fence: 

Opossum glaring down at Turner (and me) from our back fence. Evelyn held the flashlight.

The bags of seed I buy are labeled “bird” seed and the containers I pour them into are called “bird” feeders. But these little chipmunks (Tamias striatus) are (or anyway pretend to be) illiterate and they love to eat it. I’d just parked in front of the house and this one was eyeballing the feeders, probably making sure our neighbor’s cat wasn’t skulking around: 

Chipmunk doing surveillance on our bird feeders

There are a lot, lot, lot of butterflies around this time of year. I saw this pair (and a whole lot more) of Silvery Checkerspots (Chlosyne nycteis) when Turner and I were hiking at Pony Pasture this morning: 

Silvery checkerspots at the river this morning

Also speaking of butterflies (indirectly), we have Monarch Butterfly caterpillars in our front and backyard garden. Monarch butterflies begin their lives as eggs; I didn’t see the eggs this year. Caterpillar (shown here) is the second stage of their life cycle. If they’re lucky (and if we’re lucky) they’ll form a pupa (chrysalis). A few formed on our front bushes last October. Some of them didn’t develop past that stage – nothing came out of the chrysalis. But a few reached the final stage and we “fledged” at least a couple of butterflies, the fourth and final stage. I hope we end up in a few weeks with actual butterflies, but at the moment we have caterpillars. They’re pretty!: 

Monarch butterfly caterpillar devouring our front milkweed

Evelyn and I visited the Uptown Community Garden at 2201 Parkwood Avenue last weekend. It backs up to the Downtown Expressway between Addison Street and Shields Avenue. The sign says “No Pesticides or Herbicides Allowed” and there are butterflies (and flowers and vegetables) everywhere. We don’t use pesticides or herbicides either, but we don’t have quite their population of butterflies. Here is a Monarch we saw there: 

Stunning Monarch butterfly at Richmond Community Garden

We saw a Black Swallowtail a few plants over the same day. I have tentatively identified this as a male; I am open to correction if someone points it out. Whichever gender it is, this is a nice looking insect: 

Black Swallowtail a few flowers away from that Monarch at Richmond Community Garden

I’ll close with one more flying creature, though considerably larger and less colorful than the last two. This is a Great Egret (Ardea alba) and it is no less attractive. It’s graceful in a manner that (IMO) is difficult for insects to achieve: 

Great egret

I changed my mind about closing! I will instead close with another magnificent hibiscus that Ev has growing in our backyard. True story – I have the most enormous iPhone ever manufactured by Apple, but it does not begin to cover one of these blooms. They are just enormous. I hope to put up another blog post next week. Meanwhile, enjoy this one! All best, 


Cartoonishly huge and bright hibiscus in our backyard

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.
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6 Responses to Back on track – at least for today 

  1. Rob Martin says:

    Your wonderful reflections provide great comfort!

    • Thank you Rob! I’m fortunate to have this platform and this opportunity to slow down and process my thoughts and reflections during the week. It helps me step back and get a little perspective. Thank you for your kind words!

  2. Barbara Tomlinson says:

    So sorry about Mackey. It’s never easy. I recently had the same experience with my cat Zena who was in her 21st year. We had shared many experiences over the years. She was true to her name (even though I spelled it with a Z and not an X) and was always a little princess warrior.

    • Thank you Barbara. Sorry to hear about Zena too. I hope Dash makes it to 21. As you noted, it’s never easy. It’s the unfortunate price of sharing our lives with pets. Fortunately the rewards are nearly infinite. Thanks for the note and have a great day,


  3. Sally says:

    So sorry about Mackey, Jay. Wonderful post.

    • Thank you Sally. It was a tough loss, like they all are. We miss Mackey’s peaceful energy and calm spirit. Fortunately Evelyn and Turner and Dash and I are all healthy. I hope you guys are too! And I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for the note and have a great day,


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