Monday, September 17, 2018

I Remember Well

White-lined Sphinx Moth

Looking back.  Looking forward.  And here I am.  They say autumn has begun.  I lock myself indoors pretending it's cold outside when in reality it's still like opening an oven.  So what to do? Escape to the great White Mountains and feel the sensations of being cold!

Painted Lady
I have discovered many of the birds here in the US.  Oh, there's about 50 or so I need for the US but they are in pockets here and there that require a one trip visit.  It's more than just birding now.  I want to make my home and garden come alive again.  I started cooking after almost 2 decades of not cooking and it brings me joy.  I sit and watch old episodes of Julia Child making French things like French Onion Soup:)  And it makes me want to go back to France again.  Old personalities like Julia Child and Bob Ross bring with them a sense of comfort.

We sat and watched the Elk graze in Greer at sunset
My travels abroad this summer forced me to cook in the kitchen and save money.  And it brought me joy.  I began taking notes in Trinidad, Hawaii, and Mexico.  In Maine, I collected more ideas.  Then I discovered the Farmer's Market of produce and I began to make my own fresh food again.  For 10 years, at the job that pays my health insurance, Helen always made me a fresh salad during lunch. It was the highlight of my day. But to cut costs, the district got rid of her.  In one deadly strike, I lost a friend and an amazing salad. 

So I began making my own lunches.  I got a membership to Costco, then to the National Parks and then we got a membership for the Desert Museum.  I've somewhat stepped out of the Arizona birding. Birders have told me this happens.  It's not that I am not birding.  I am.  I'm just not into chasing birds around this state as much anymore.  It seems goofy driving hours on the road observing a bird that I've seen many times in other places. So I stick to my patches.  And bird.  And cook. And save money for the big treks that are coming up. It's gotta be a really rare bird for me to chase.

Greer Lake
I get nostalgic this time of year.  I am reminded of the passing of time.  The passing of friends and family.  Of my aging.  It makes me happy.  It makes me sad.  I try to recreate recipes that my Grandma's made for me while they were still alive. After their passings, I took their iconic cookware and brought them home.  I mix salads and pastas and soups and desserts together in them. I pull out their fine glassware that they always put out for me on their tables during holidays or visits.  Sometimes I wish I could go back in time and be that dish that sat on their dinner tables just so I could hear their voices again. They stood preparing delicious foods with this glassware and now I do the same. And it connects me to those memories. 

Warbling Vireos migrate through the area
I'd, of course, have to place those dishes out-of-reach from a certain sister who likes to eat all the black olives. Sometimes Grandma would place the olives next to my Grandpa's magnifying glass where he read the newspaper, away from little hands but within reach for the adults. She didn't know that we could climb up chairs:) That fancy crystal bowl now sits in my cupboards with the rest of their dishes.  I began to pull them out again and fill them up with fresh lemons, tomatoes, onions and avocados.  My siblings would instantly recognize them because they were fun pieces that were always full of fresh veggies and crackers. They, too, bring comfort. 

The infamous West Baldy Trail #94
Over the next several weekends, I will be reflecting often.  This past weekend we escaped to Pinetop and Greer to get away from these horrible 100+ temps here in Tucson. 

Wilson's Snipe
 Then I'm off to Wisconsin where I'll spend some relaxing time with the family.  It's also a bittersweet visit in that I will say good-bye to Bernie.  He passed away a couple months ago and I was stuck here working.  I couldn't fly home for the funeral so I will go where I first met him as a child, Woodland Dunes.  I was just a beginning birder and he showed me my first Northern Saw-Whet Owls and how I could band them.  I'll meet him at that old red barn when I thought everything would last forever. Woodland Dunes was his life's work.  And today, it's his legacy.

A Sora dances around with another Sora hiding out in the reeds
I've written about this before but going home is harder the older I get.  I see people getting older; not myself you see because I'm immortal:) But this is the time of my life when I have only a few good decades, maybe years with lifelong friends who are now older.  What I wouldn't give to have unlimited money to visit them all.  I have to stay true to my goals.  And whenever possible, incorporate friends into the birding madness. 

But for now, I meander.  I go where I feel like going.  

We sat watching the elk eat the grass.  We played detective and found our friendly American Dipper.  There we sat with the dipper as the sun was setting and watched it get ready to go to bed. 

An American Dipper takes a break from the dipping
I bird my local patch every week at Reid Park and connect with my birds.  Some would say that that's boring.  I thought that once too, but now I find it a fun challenge.  When you've seen every possible bird around the region, you make it a game trying to find a new bird for your local patch.  And just like that, it's exciting again. Plus the data is super interesting from month to month and year to year.

A beautiful Cooper's Hawk perches
I drool at the blooms and butterflies this time of year.  I get excited.  Now that the outside painting is done at our place, all I want to do is work on my garden!  I stopped feeding my birds because I didn't want them to get poisoned with paint fumes.  So I removed all the water sources away from the building and let everything go quiet for awhile.

September is a great month for flower gardens and butterflies.  In fact, I believe it's also one of the best places for a birder to observe birds as migrating warblers like to feed from the bugs in the garden while finches, etc like to eat the seeds.  You could be at a stinky steamy hot slop pond searching for a Red Knot or sitting within a beautiful garden watching art naturally happen. I prefer the latter.  It's not going to get me anything rare, but I don't care.  

We live. We hike. And we explore.  Bring on the cold!  Let fall arrive!

And then in between, I want to play outside and grow plants.  During the summer, I stare out the window and think of the winter projects I want to do.  We have a wooden fence and I'd love to hang quirky bird houses on them!

Hunt's Bumble Bee, note the rusty brown band around the abdomen
Anyhow, I'm looking forward to the cooler temps and the final chapter to this year's birding. We'll visit several gardens around Tucson this month.  Then in October, we'll be back in Wisconsin visiting with friends and later in the month, we'll be in Rocky Point, Mexico having some fun with gull ID and shorebirds. Life is one grand adventure and it's always best when shared with friends.  Thank you for following Las Aventuras.  Until next week friends.....


  1. Gosh what a different post. You usually are chasing birds somewhere but now at present you seem more content which is good.

    1. Something changed me this summer. I'm not sure what it was, but while birding is still my love, there are other things that are taking over the chasing part. And I'm enjoying doing all the fun social stuff that comes with it. I still love being outdoors though:)

  2. Wonderful set of pictures - I love going into the mountains when it's hot. Actually I just love being in the mountains!

    Cheers - Stewart M - Melbourne

    1. I am ready to trade you for the cool air:) It has been so hot here. But September is always like that. Today we are supposed to get rain and cool temps! So excited. I'm bringing my camera just in case:)

  3. A moving post Chris. It is a lovely thought that you are using cookware inherited from loved ones. So often when I am cooking I think of my mother and I have many of the recipes she used. A beautiful selection of photos and I adore the butterflies. It is always good to have a variety of hobbies as well as the main one.

    1. It is good. I've always enjoyed those things but I put them aside for birds, which is ok. But now, I'm also allowing more time for HGTV home improvements, garden maintenance and some good ol' cooking. I love the farmer's market and it has changed me and my eating habits. It has been a fun journey so far. Every night I make or juice something fresh. I can and I freeze now. Very domestic of me I know but while I'm doing all these things, I can't help but think of my grandma's and mom(who still does it all) I haven't gotten back into baking because I think that might be bad. I don't want to develop my sweet tooth:) However, when we eventually make it over to England, we'll be trying all the desserts:)

  4. Chris your photographs are beautiful as always. They take me right to where you are. But your words are like listening to my own voice in my head. Thank you for sharing both.

    1. Thank you:) It's really so nice to "hear" your voice again. Welcome back!

  5. I think that cooking represents something fundamental that connects us to many things. I enjoy cooking, especially when we have friends over for dinner. I also bird exclusively in my local patch, other than for major trips. I still very much enjoy birding in far off places, especially if I can encounter families hitherto unseen. And that is getting harder!

    1. Yes. There's something very special about it all. I am still at the stage where I am embarrassed to share my food. I'm afraid they won't like it. I bird my patch until I can afford a new adventure because it does get more difficult. I need to hire guides now for risky areas or difficult to access areas. Arizona birding is amazing in that I can go anywhere and do my birding for free but when it's in a new country full of new rules, it's tricky business!

  6. Mostly my photos are of birds in our own yard....and, I never tire of them.... no boring things with birds around.... they are always a source of much entertainment to me...

    I began baking bread back in 2007 and love it... no more store bought for us... and, it is so much fun to experiment.... just made some Syrian Onion breads the other day...lots of cumin and onions....oh, YUM!!

    1. I agree, birds are amazing! And that bread sounds AMAZING!!!! Hot Syrian Onion bread with butter? Or olive oil? Yum!

  7. How nice to have those objects that remind you of your grandmother. I have some of my Nana's stuff as well. I will always love her and miss her.

    I hope you gave fun in Wisconsin. One day I will go there. I hope you get a chance to say "Goodbye " to Bernie in your own way.

    It's cooling off nicely here in Maine. Come back soon. We still have somemore birds to find together.


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