Let the day begin

(Also posted today to Amy’s Backyard Birds)


Sweetness and light.

8 a.m.: I ditched the backyard scene, with the gobbling, molting grackles, the squabbling, naked-headed bluejays (also in molt) and I headed a couple of miles east to my beach backyard where I blissed out on sandpiper cuteness.


Semipalmated sandpiper?

One hundred? two hundred? sandpipers and plovers were running around in the washed-up seaweed at North Hampton State Beach. They camouflage nicely so I guess that’s why the runners and walkers and beach-chair ocean-starers were ignoring the charming little birds.

shorebird seaweed

Some people were doing yoga with their mats rolled out on the clean sand closer to the ocean’s bright edge and the freshly risen sun. One class ended and another began while I was there. The instructor collected checks for $100 from a few people as they were leaving.

Some of them saw me taking pictures of the birds, but they didn’t seem to really see the birds. People see other people. Birds see other birds, and the hulking shapes of people when they are too close.


Plovers would chase each other sometimes, if one violated another’s breakfast-gathering zone, but they ignored the other sandpipers.

At one point I was standing right behind some people in beach chairs, while snapping bird pics, and I sensed they didn’t like how close I had come to their beach zone, reserved early on what promises (with sunshine and calm winds) to be a busy late-summer Sunday.


When there is a lot of seaweed on the sand like this, there is less space for people and more room and food for birds. So I consider the mild stench of rotting seaweed to be worth it to help the big job of shorebird migration.

 Semipalmated Sandpipers from eastern populations probably undertake nonstop transoceanic flights of 3,000 – 4,000 km (1,900 – 2,500 mi) from New England and southern Canada to South America, powered by extensive fat reserves.


Is this a semipalmated or piping plover? I don’t know enough to tell the difference. But one is endangered and protected, and limits human use of certain beaches during breeding season, and the other does not.

Staring through a telephoto lens in bright morning sun at tiny, vivacious shorebirds is one way (that works especially well for me) to increase serotonin levels in the human brain without drugs.

A distinct sensation of elation was with me on the car ride home and still, an hour and a half later, now. Let the day begin.


“The whole modernist-realist tradition is about the self observing the world around you—sensing how other it is, how alien it is, how different it is to what’s going on inside you. In fantasy, that gets turned inside out. The landscape you inhabit is a mirror of what’s inside you. The stuff inside can get out, and walk around, and take the form of places and people and things and magic. And once it’s outside, then you can get at it. You can wrestle it, make friends with it, kill it, seduce it. Fantasy takes all those things from deep inside and puts them where you can see them, and then deal with them.” – Confronting Reality By Reading Fantasy (Lev Grossman on the importance of C.S. Lewis), The Atlantic


“…it’s the way he uses language—which is nothing like the way fantasists used language before him. There’s no sense of nostalgia. There’s no medieval floridness. There’s no fairy tale condescension to the child reader. It’s very straight, and very clean—there’s no Vaseline on the lens. You see everything clearly, not with sparkles or a flowery sense of wonderment, but with very specific physical details. Look at the attention to detail as you watch Lucy going through the wardrobe:

This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stooping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.

Next moment she found that what was rubbing against her face and hands was no longer soft fur but something hard and rough and even prickly. “Why, it is just like branches of trees!” exclaimed Lucy. And then she saw that there was a light ahead of her; not a few inches away where the back of the wardrobe ought to have been, but a long way off. Something cold and soft was falling on her. A moment later she found that she was standing in the middle of a wood at night-time with snow under her feet and snowflakes falling through the air.

She feels the softness of the coats, she hears the crunching under her feet, she bends down and feels the snow, she feels the prickliness of the trees, and just like that she’s through the wardrobe and into Narnia. There are no special effects in the passage. He’s making magic, but he’s making magic out of very ordinary physical impressions. It’s very powerful, and it’s very new. I don’t think anybody wrote this way before he did. He came up with a new way to describe magic that made it feel realer than it ever had.

It works because he’s writing fantasy—but he’s working with the tools of realism. Even though he had this wonderful romantic yearning nostalgia, he writes like a modernist. He writes like Hemingway, like the Joyce of Dubliners. Though he was writing shortly after the time of the modernists, he observes reality in the meticulous, almost disenchanted way they did—but he puts those tools in the service of a totally different effect.

As far as the modern fantasy novels goes, this is ground zero. You’re seeing the atom being split for the first time. So much of what’s written afterwards comes out of that simple moment, just emerges from Lucy going through the wardrobe.”


wild blueberries

Wild blueberries, August 1

honey perfume rose

Honey Perfume rose after rain

purple loosestrife

Purple loosestrife by the pond


What to do with the blueberries…

Food & Wine: Blueberry Margarita


What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass.
– Andrew Marvell, The Garden