Monday, March 18, 2019

Jay Walking

Lots of the weekend involved mundane things like laundry and grocery shopping, but part of the weekend was outdoorsy and wonderful!

A naturalist friend and I hosted a few of my students on a field trip to a local sanctuary, home to several families of scrub jays, a bird that only lives in Florida. Its chosen habitat is high and dry, making it a prime target for development in this swampy state. Scrub jays are endangered as a result, because they can only live under those specific conditions. I hope conservation efforts will be enough to save them.

Scrub jays need vegetation that's no more than 4 feet tall. Otherwise the hawks have too much of an advantage, sitting in the tall trees and then swooping down for a kill. These big pines are on the edge of the preserve, but the rest of it is no taller than what you see in the foreground here. 

It has to be managed now, to keep it low, because near houses and businesses, we don't allow fires to sweep through and knock everything back. Controlled burns and a big machine called a chopper maintain the height so the scrub jays can survive. (Not easily visible, thanks to my phone camera, is a scrub jay near the center of this picture.)

Here's a better look! These birds have been studied quite a bit, so they are fairly used to people. They will come and check you out to see if you have any peanuts, which makes for a great photo op! 

The native lupines are blooming now. The sandy soil around them reveals that thousands of years ago, when the ocean was much higher, this was the beach. Given that we are about 8 miles inland, that's pretty impressive to think about.

The lyonia, a native shrub, is blooming, too, festooned with little pink bells. Or in some cases, little white bells. Such delicate blossoms on a very hardy plant. It has to be hardy, to survive in this dunelike environment.  

Mr./Ms. Gopher Tortoise was undisturbed by our staring from a distance (this photo is cropped, because we stayed quite far away). He/she looks to be a mature adult and is about the size of a dinner plate. 

Gopher tortoises are also endangered and protected, so you can't mess with them in any way. But a photo doesn't hurt.  

As the saying goes, we took only photos (plus some stray beer cans we found) and left only footprints. 

Friday, March 15, 2019

I Have Seen My Future (I Hope)

One of the drawbacks of my new job is the commute. It's an hour's drive each way in rush hour traffic, which makes it seem very long.

Fortunately, there's the train! This makes the commute slightly longer -- I have to drive 15 minutes to the station -- but it's totally stress-free. The trains are very clean and not very crowded, plus I have a whole hour to play on the phone or read a book or basically, do whatever I want. I think I'm really going to like it.

Last week, though, I had one of those Oh No moments while walking from work to the station. The brick pavers were uneven in some places and I had on my work shoes, with more of a heel than I'm used to. So I tripped and fell, landing pretty hard on my knees and forearm. It was very embarrassing and a little bit upsetting, too.

No one was near me when I fell, although there were some people off in the distance. As I was gathering my wits and putting some things back in my purse, I noticed a group of young people approaching. From my almost-elder years, I can say they were typical 20-somethings: all shapes, all sizes, all colors/races/ethnicities, basically the kind of well-mixed group that was extremely uncommon during my years growing up in the South, where everyone in my circle was white. (Don't get me wrong: I consider it progress that things aren't so homogenized anymore.)

I could hear one of them say in the distance, "Whew, I've done that. Ouch." They came up to me and bent over with concern: "Are you all right?" And then a beautiful young woman with long dark hair extended her hand to me and asked, "Would you like me to help you up?"

I know it sounds weird, but I had one of those moments when time slows down. I looked up into her face, and despite my usual tendency to resist showing any sign of weakness whatsoever, I thought, "Yes, yes I would."

So I said that, and took her hand in my right hand. At the same time, I could see in my peripheral vision another hand to my left, which belonged to an impossibly tall and slender young black man -- who also had extended his hand me. I took their hands, and stood up, saying "Thank you, thank you so much, you are so kind" to each of them. And then they were gone.       

I realize now I was probably still a bit stunned. I also understand why people feel that they're helped by angels in far worse situations -- angels who seem to appear when needed and disappear when the task is done. It seemed like that to me. It was lovely.

What has stayed with me since then is the feeling that this is what aging will be like, if I'm lucky. I will need help and -- if my luck holds -- young, strong, kind strangers will be there to offer it. I realize those helpers will probably be paid to help me, modern life being what it is. I hope that when that time comes, I will remember this small episode and muster the grace to accept the help they offer, and to be grateful. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Car Woes

This isn't exactly a rant, but it's close.

Saturday I had an appointment to take Tex to the dealer for a repair. Tex must have taken a rock somewhere along the way, shattering the cover over one of her front turn signals. All that was left was little jagged pieces of broken plastic around the edges, leaving the bulb exposed.

In the interest of efficiency, when I made the appointment, I also spoke with the parts department and had them order the part. Tex is a 2009, and I figured (correctly) that it wouldn't be in stock -- so I coordinated the part delivery and the appointment. I thought I'd done good!

However . . . I showed up at the dealer on Saturday morning, gave them the car, told them about the part that was supposed to be delivered on Friday, and waited. And waited. And waited.

About 90 minutes later, the service person came out to tell me that Tex needed new wiper blades and that they'd found an oil leak. They wanted $125 to "locate" the leak. I said "No thanks" and I'd take care of that another time, because I hadn't noticed any oil leak. The service person suggested I put a flattened cardboard box under the car when I park it and then I'll see the oil leaking. I told her I already do that (true) and I haven't seen any oil (also true). I asked them to just finish up so I could be on my way.

Thirty minutes later, I paid and off I went. First mistake: I didn't look closely at the receipt. Second mistake: I didn't check Tex when she came back to me. But 2 hours later I checked -- and noticed that the plastic cover was not replaced!

So back to the dealer we went.

Turns out there had been a "miscommunication" between the service person and the repair person, and they had replaced the bulb of the turn signal on that side, and that's all.

Now I ask you, if you're the service technician replacing the bulb, wouldn't you have noticed that the cover was broken off and there were only jagged bits of plastic around the edge where the cover was supposed to be?      

Maybe they should have been more interested in what I was complaining about, and less interested in trying to find things that I wasn't complaining about so they could charge me for them! I thought that, but didn't say it.

However, I did say it in the Customer Satisfaction Survey they sent me. I'm expecting a follow-up call.

Meanwhile, the whole experience felt kind of scammy. I don't think I'll be going back to that dealer again.

I will be checking my oil regularly, though, just in case.   

Monday, March 11, 2019

Catching Up

And here we go! Lots of things are in play throughout my life right now, so here's another of those list-intensive posts . . . .

1. The reading challenges I'm hosting for 2019 are now closed. I think I'm caught up with everyone's sign-ups and books read so far. If you don't see yourself and your books, please give me a shout.

2. Prizes from 2018 are gathered and being posted soon. If you're a winner, I'll let you know when I actually make it to the post office.

3. Since my last post I landed a fabulous new job with a law firm and finished my first week this past week. Yay, me! I will miss doing water advocacy, and the fabulous people I got to work with on a daily basis for a supremely important cause. (I plan to keep volunteering, though.) After the semester ends, I suspect I will also miss teaching. BUT the new job pays more than the other 3 jobs combined, and comes with a generous benefits package. Ultimately, I had to make a practical decision . . .  and I was recruited by a good friend who's worked there several years and loves it. That made it especially difficult to resist.

4. Thanks to #3, I expect to recover my weekends -- rather than spending them getting ready for juggling 3 sets of responsibilities during the week to come. That should mean more time for outdoor fun, reading, and even blogging. We'll see if that holds!

5. Meanwhile, baseball season has started with the local college team. And my wild yard is producing multitudes of volunteer flowers with no prompting whatsoever from me. I'm even going to enter it into a contest for the most "river-friendly" yard, meaning no fertilizer, pesticides, watering, or other interventions. That makes it easy on Mother Nature and the river, as well as on the local wildlife large and small.

Life is good!

Thanks for your patience with my sporadic check-ins. I'll see you again soon! 

Monday, January 21, 2019

Today's List

A microcosm of my life these days . . .

1. Buy and load minutes for my best friend's phone, which she uses when she visits Florida from her home in the U.K. She's trying to get her mom into assisted living, so I'm happy to do anything I can to help her.

2. March in our hometown parade honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We still have a long way to go.

3. About a million things for work, including finishing my work plan for this year -- so I know what I'm doing. The hardest part for me is to stop generating ideas. I want to do everything!

4. Prep for teaching two classes tomorrow. Both classes are small this semester, which adds a little extra pressure to keep things interesting.

5. Stay warm. (I just added that one.) It's 38 degrees this morning -- very cold for us. Especially when it was 80 degrees the day before. Talk about winter weather whiplash!

6. Savor being a speck in the universe. The eclipse last night has me thinking about my To Do list on a celestial scale, which certainly keeps things in perspective.

My friend Mac made a wonderful picture!