Marsh mellow

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The allure of a marsh in spring. (No bugs yet.)

Last Saturday it was warm and sunny. We bought Laura some better lacrosse goggles at Dick’s Sporting Goods, then took a little road trip south to the Great Marsh in Massachusetts.

First we stopped at the Rowley River saltmarshes because John has been there in summer and knows there is a successful purple martin colony in gourd houses.

John is trying for the fifth or sixth year to get purple martins to nest in a house by our pond. He’s had tree swallows for a couple of years instead.

He’s been doing online research at The Purple Martin Conservation Organization and keeping an eye on the migration map.

This year he moved the house further out into the field. “They need to be away from the trees. I’ve been a bad martin daddy.”

Egrets

Since the Rowley gourds weren’t even up yet, we figured the martins weren’t back.

So we drove a little further north to Stackyard Road and took a walk through the marsh out to Sawyers Island.

We saw egrets. Fun fact:

The Great Egret is the symbol of the National Audubon Society, one of the oldest environmental organizations in North America. Audubon was founded to protect birds from being killed for their feathers.

Egrets live to be about 23, which seems old for a bird.

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Opreys were nesting on a platform just over the crest of the hill atop the island.

The Osprey is a fish-eating specialist, with live fish accounting for about 99% of its diet. Barbed pads on the soles of its feet help it grip slippery fish. When an Osprey takes a large fish to its nest, it carries the fish headfirst to make it as aerodynamic as possible.

Laura and I stretched out on the rough brown grass and watched them for a while, taking turns with my polarizing sunglasses. John took a walk to a small reedy pond down the hill.

Beyond, at the eastern side of the island, were field trials with hunting/ retrieving dogs being run through their paces. Now and then we could hear the pop of a (presumably pretend) gun.

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Laura had been very resistant to the idea of mandatory fresh air and a road trip in search of birds. “Boring” was her assessment.

When we got to Sawyers Island she sprawled out in the back seat and refused to get out. “I’ll just have a nap while you go for a walk,” she said.

Just our luck, a wasp flew in the car. She decided to join us, but dragged her feet (muddily) at first.

Then we saw the egrets, and minnows in shallow pools, and mucked through puddles adventurously, and took turns with the binoculars, and she decided to enjoy herself after all.

Her freckles came out in the sun.

City fix

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Boston today.

Girls and I took the commuter rail from Newburyport to North Station (1 hour), then the T to Copley Place. Shopped till we dropped.

Anna bought a pair of Lucky Jeans. Laura got a fetching dress from Banana Republic for semi-formal and/or 8th grade graduation– navy blue with white polka dots the size of cupcakes.

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I wanted to take a tour of Trinity Church but we ran out of energy. Next time maybe.

I still have money left on my Charlie card.

Walking mornings

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Beach kids last weekend

“What is today?”

“Wednesday. The Day the Trashman Comes.”

Oh yes, then I remember. It was on Monday I woke up just before dawn, which is so early now – almost half a day before vampire teenagers on vacation wake up without the motherly nagging and the clatter of opening blinds. “ACH! The sun!”

On Monday I finished with all the first morning things like coffee, newspaper, half a sandwich for breakfast, dog walk to the pond to look for overnighting Canada geese. (Gone already.)

I was feeling an itchy spring energy so I drove to the ocean. I parked under a big pitch pine at the North Hampton/ Rye border and walked north on the storm-cracked sidewalk.

Our optician neighbor gave me a pair of polarizing sunglasses. Now I can see each individual dustmote on my car dashboard and every crisp curl of the waves.

I walked a mile north to Eel Pond where I found a young, small muskrat diving in shallow water, pulling up small aquatic plants and nibbling them like an otter.

He (or she) didn’t care I was there.

I sat down cross-legged on the rugged pebbly shore, a few feet away, to watch. When he was full of his breakfast of weeds that grow in the brackish pond, the muskrat came into shallower water and began grooming himself by licking his tiny knobbly-jointed paws and brushed them over his face, neck and body, and fluffing his thick brown damp fur at the same time.

It was enchanting.

I walked the same route with John this morning, but we didn’t see the muskrat. But the swans were there, and the mallards.

Walking back along Route 1A there is the small weathered wooden plank boardwalk resting on top of the smooth rounded stones piled high. It wobbles and you have to watch where you step. It’s a minor balancing act.

Sunglasses on, the Isles of Shoals are a tiny clear magical kingdom offshore.

Miss Sunshine

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A quest for the perfect pebble. A girl reaches into the waves at North Hampton Beach late Saturday afternooon. The balmy weekend weather brought visitors and residents to the coast to beachcomb, walk, play, relax and enjoy a little sunshine.

This photo I took was in the Hampton Union today, with good color reproduction. I’m glad they can use color inside the paper now too.

I survived physical therapy this morning. It concluded with a large, heavy heating pad laid the length of my spine, with me on my stomach on the table for 10 minutes. It was almost naptime at that point.

There was a lot of work involved, and use of half-dormant muscles. But I wouldn’t mind a good stretching and back-loosening massage like I received today every morning.

Love those big rubber exercise balls.

Murder by numbers

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Column: Small Pond
Hampton Union, April 24

Professor teaches even in death

The last time I tried explain mass murder to my children was on Sept. 11, 2001. They were in the seventh and third grades. When they got off the bus, we had snacks at the dining room table.

“I know you heard something about today,” I said. “It is the worst thing I can remember. I am going to tell you what I know and answer your questions. We’ll watch a little TV news, but I will have the remote control.”

The planes flew into the buildings, the buildings fell to the ground, and thousands of people died in a heartbeat. Some people in other countries — children in the streets burning American flags — cheered.

Initially, I shrank from the story of the mass shootings at Virginia Tech. I did not face it the way I faced Sept. 11. I did not know what my children knew about it — I just remember my eldest daughter, a senior heading to college next year, following the story closely at first, horrified, but wanting to know every detail.

I shrank from the story — refused to watch TV, did not read to the end of articles. I could not stand the media orgy of graphic detail, the rush to blame, the politicians’ and lobbyists’ exploitation of the tragedy to support their views and careers, the wallowing in self-pity and introspection about what is wrong with “us” and our culture.

I felt about this story the way I did not feel about Sept. 11: It was one crazy person, now dead, who acted on the fantasies of his ill mind. Sept. 11 was about a clash of two incompatible world views, and it is not over.

Families, friends and classmates of the Virginia Tech students are grieving. We may be sad or worried or angry, but they were bereaved. We should respect their loss — and not broadcast an endless loop of the killer’s rantings, or be consumers of those images.

When I finally broached the subject, my younger daughter felt much as I did: “They couldn’t have known, and they should stop trying to blame people for it.”

My older daughter believed there were signs of mental illness that could have been heeded — though hindsight is 20/20, and it is difficult to force treatment on adults.

We agreed there is an overload of violent images in video games, TV, movies. We are saturated, numb, disgusted.

“Do you have any interest in viewing a movie like ‘Grindhouse’ right now?” I asked.

“Absolutely not,” she said.

What shall we do? How can we stand it? We have such a strong urge to figure out what went wrong, solve problems, and protect our loved ones and ourselves.

I was not looking for more information, but I accidentally found an amazing story within the story that is worth sharing in a way the sick ruminations of the killer certainly are not.

Professor Liviu Librescu, 76, was an Israeli mechanics and engineering lecturer at Virginia Tech. When the killer arrived at his classroom door, the professor blocked the entrance, giving his students time to get out, giving his students their lives.

They jumped from the windows; all survived. Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, was shot and killed.

On Friday, Liviu Librescu was buried in Israel, wrapped in a prayer shawl. His two sons intoned the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead. His elder son, Joe, said, “I walked through the streets today with my head held high because I have such a father.”

This is a story I want my children to know.

I tell them not because I have an axe to grind or a point to prove about guns, or video games, or mental-health care, or campus policing, or the media. I tell them because I want them to grow up to be sensible, kind and brave. To love life and goodness, not violence and death.

This is the story. There was a wise old man, a professor, who looked a killer in the face, fought back, and saved his students’ lives but lost his own. In his final action, he teaches still.

Amy Kane is a freelance writer and a North Hampton resident.

VA Tech scholarship funds in honor or memory of the victims

Liviu Librescu

List of victims: Liviu Librescu

Service with City Year

Putting their prints on their school: Academy students partner with City Year on projects
By Amy Kane

HAMPTON — Bleachers got a fresh coat of paint Friday morning when City Year New Hampshire partnered with the Hampton Academy student council for the 19th annual National Youth Service Day.

Seventh- and eighth-graders rolled up their collective sleeves and joined six City Year members to paint the bleachers at the Hampton Academy baseball field, repaint the school sign, paint blacktop games like four-square on the basketball court, clean up trash and plant flowers in front of the school.

Seaside

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The sea whispered in your ear like a friend telling you secrets.

– Yann Martel, Life of Pi

I stopped by the beach yesterday in the late afternoon, with the telephoto lens on my camera. So many people were enjoying the balmy weather and gentle lapping of the waves.

Lacrosse practice with under-15’s this afternoon. I am the asst coach. I set myself up behind the goal for our half field scrimmage and played with whichever team was on attack. A modification because I can’t run. But we got the girls thinking about and using the area behind the net. It sets them up nicely for passes to shoot too.

So good to be outside in shirtsleeves.

Last night we watched Netflix rental Greenfingers, a nice little movie that can’t go wrong because Clive Owen is so damn hot.

Based on a true story about a group of British convicts who become prize- winning gardeners.

I am too tired to write more tonight. Tomorrow I intend to blog our Mass. marsh trip on Saturday in quest of purple martins.