Back in the Saddle

While I haven’t taken time off from BEING the Writer’s Wife, I have taken time off from this blog! But, perhaps, I am ready to return and renew my commitment to updating the status of my own life and work.

So what WAS I doing during the break? Well, life goes on. We’ve both been writing and working. We’ve graduated nieces, nephews, godchildren from high school & college; we’ve had new babies born into the family, embraced new in-laws, comforted the sick, and paid respects to those who passed on. We’ve played with friends and each other, and sometimes lived in the frozen, silent land of true anger.  Yes, that’s right.  Just life.

The Writer has been busy, too.  He continues to write his weekly columns on birding and has tried (well, that may be a strong word for his idea of marketing; it’s definitely true that his idea of “trying” and mine look very different!) to syndicate with no luck, so he continues to be true to his deadlines and passion with just the two. He published Crow Baby and had some good success with that; even had a very prestigious children’s book author interested enough to give him agents’ names and her endorsement (which he never followed up on!). He is teaching full-time now and loving that, but his writing continues, too. Funny, isn’t it, how the busier we are, the more we seem to get done?????

We’ve traveled a good bit this year – from home west to California (SF area) then home again and down to Miami. Long trips full of wonderful memories and lots of time to think! Busy-ness does not always leave time to do that!

We are home now for the summer; I’m transitioning into a new job, and the Writer continues to teach and write. All is well in our world!

Talk to you soon.


Okay, I, like millions of others, make a stupid New Year’s Resolution every year, and, like most, I don’t keep it. Sometimes it’s really stupid like lose weight, exercise, eat better/less, drink less (not better!), etc. You get the picture. You probably ARE the picture – just like me!

So this year, none of that, but I do want to do something productive. So, I want to write more. To express myself in some way. To have a real web log.

Here goes: I’ll post to the blog weekly.

Now, tell me. What are your productive, contributive resolutions?

Stepping out of my comfort zone

That’s my new year’s resolution. I began the day with a bucket list item: be a redhead (see picture below). I had the same feeling looking in the mirror that I had when I became blonde . . . back in ought-three or so

2010: The Red Me

(and I don’t mean 2003!).  I didn’t know me for a second or two but I think I’m gonna like this new look.

But I also mean more than just how I look. I want to step out of my comfort zone in terms of friendships, in terms of work (yeah, like that ever stabilizes enough to get “comfortable”!), in terms of my LIFE. I want to try some new things and do some things differently.  I thought about this over lunch as I was questioning my friend Beth about her laundry habits (she lets it pile; I wash as soon as I have a load).  What would happen if I didn’t do laundry until I ran out of underwear? Would it really change anything? But it wouldn’t be comfortable–aha! That’s what I mean!

Laundry is a little thing, a thing that might not matter much to anyone except me, but it is the little things that make up our living every day that do matter in the long run. What would I do with the minutes I save doing laundry in a week? Who knows – and that’s the point!  And I may try it and then step right back into my comfort zone and that’s fine, too.  But I want to try . . . I want to think about what I’m doing and why, rather than driving on auto pilot so much.

So, that’s it for this New Year’s Eve. And, of course, it’s once in a blue moon, you know….enjoy. Be safe. Feel loved.

Healthy Waters, Healthy World

I’m opposed to the Richton Salt Dome Project and I don’t mind saying that to anyone. Not because I don’t use oil and think we need more oil resources; I drive a car and we own two. Not because I don’t believe that a strategic oil reserve is a good thing; I do. Not because I’m elitist, or left-wing, or lack patriotism; I’m poor middle-class, vote my conscience and not a political party, and I’m about as patriotic as they come.

I oppose the project because of the river…the Pascagoula River.

The Pascagoula River is the last free-flowing river in the contiguous 48 states. Years ago, when a local land development company in our area wanted to damn the Bouie River (a branch of the Pascagoula system) to create a large lake, and therefore many acres of “riverfront” homes, our local Audubon group, along with many others, fought that movement, and we won. The system remains unfettered.

Now, with salt domes empty in Louisiana, with apparent oil shortages looming and driving up the cost of gasoline and heating fuel, we need to put oil in a salt dome outside of little Richton, MS. And, it’s not even that that bothers me. It’s that we’re going to pump out 50 Million gallons of river water per DAY — yep, per day! — to wash out the salt dome so we can store oil in it. And then what happens to the hyper-saline, you may ask? Well, says DOE, we’ll just build a many mile steel pipeline and pump it into the Gulf of Mexico, past the barrier islands off the Mississippi Sound.


Edward O. Wilson, internationally famous Harvard biologist, said that the Pascagoula River system should be preserved as an International Biosphere, a place that remains in perpetuity wild and untamed, the very last river system in the 48 states to remain so. He said this for many reasons, partly because our country deserves just ONE river that is still wild and free-flowing. He said this partyly because there are species endemic to the system that will be forever gone if we screw it up. He said this partly because he understands the value of fresh water river systems and the brackish marsh they produce as they pour into the Mississippi Sound.

Ok, so we have the following equations:

River minus 50 Million gallons of water/day = Disaster


50 Million gallons of hyper-salty water/day pumped into Gulf of Mexico (cause we don’t believe that changing the salinity levels of the sound will hurt fishing or tourism or livelihoods) = Disaster


50 million gallons of hyper-salty water/day transported over land, through forests, town, and farmland into the gulf through STEEL pipeline (remember, salt is corrosive) = Disaster


A place to put oil we don’t have. And at a cost of $4 BILLION dollars of tax-payer money. And despite popular opinion in the area.

If this makes sense to you, great. If, like me, you just don’t get how it all balances out, you can go to the site below and send your own legislators a letter. or better yet, call them and ask them what they think about this whole mess. Especially if you’re from Mississippi, but don’t fret if you’re not; send mail to the Mississippi legislators anyway so that they understand that they can’t do this behind the American public’s back. The river that’s about to be devastated belongs to all of us, every last man, woman, and child in the US…but, look quick. It’s about to be gone.

Pascagoula River


Thanksgiving Day

What a gorgeous day it was today! We drove to Gainesville on Tuesday, arriving in early evening and enjoying a great Cuban dinner at Mi Apa before retiring in the misty rain to a restless night. Wednesday, we didn’t have far to go, mile wise,but it took all day through a steady rain, just heavy enough for me to need the wipers. We drove through “old Florida,” through horse country around Ocala, and through cracker country between farm and ocean. Even saw a black bear and cub on the side of the road; watched as they startled at our car and dove into roadside brush (thankfully). We went as far east we we could, ending up on Merritt Island NWR after a HUGE rock shrimp lunch at Dixie Crossroads.

Rainy, drizzly, gray, and totally, luciously lovely is how I’d describe Merrit Island. We saw Bald Eagle, Snipe, Yellowthroated Warbler, Palm Warbler, Osprey, GBH, Great Egrets, Little Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Greater Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Fox Sparrow, Gadwall, Blue-winged Teal, Coot, Mottled Duck, Louisiana Heron (or Tri-colored Heron, if you prefer), Reddish Egrets, and many other shorebirds.

We departed late afternoon, still in drizzle, to head towards our final destination for this trip: New Smyrna Beach. We arrived at the Buena Vista Inn shortly (only a short 25 miles or so up US1) and waited for our family to arrive.

And arrive the Vilbergs did, shortly after 7 and right on schedule after their 5 hour drive. Ruth and I still had Thanksgiving Day shopping to do, so off we went with Lady Marion to a Publix (so I could get ginger ale) for our Turkey Day trimmings. Then back to the inn to visit, drink some wine, and catch up –and finally, bed, still with the rain gently falling.

Sometime in the night, the rain stopped and the day dawned brisk and overcast, but you could tell the clouds were breaking up. By early morning when we were running from suite to suite to get breakfast done, the day was sunny and gorgeous. And so it remained.

We started the rib roast in the oven (thank you to the Publix butcher who coached us through the process on Wed. nite!), then finished it on the courtyard grill as we grilled the asparagus and waited for the Mac & Cheese in the oven to get golden brown on top and bubbly on the sides. We ate the feast in the courtyard on picnic tables beneath a gentle golden sun and cool breezes. It sorta felt like heaven. And we have two more days to go before we begin the trek home.

A restless reflection

In two days, I’ve written and moved two newsletters through my desk and on to completion elsewhere. But somehow I can’t find time to write here, even time to reflect, really, on what’s going on. Three children at USM died recently, leaving other students and faculty shaken and a little scared. A very dear friend is battling the bad economy and losing as, we hear, is one of our brothers. Another dear friend was recently taken ill and awaiting surgery. Another admitted himself back into a treatment program for at least 30 days…maybe more. I’ve just had the first board meeting of the new board I’m on, and just returned this evening (before the second newsletter) from a fund-raiser for Southern Pines Animal Shelter. And the end of the semester, pale by comparison, is coming at me like a runaway train!

It’s all just a bit much.

So in lieu of any more complaining and moaning about poor me, let me tell you some of the things I’m grateful for as Thanksgiving approaches:

My husband who deserves more recognition for hanging in there with me for 25+ years than I could ever give him. If you see him, congratulate him, both for keeping me and for his patience, tolerance, lion-to-my-lioness attitude, and deep and true love.

– Family (all of them, even those who are distant in temperament or physical distance or just their own busy lives)

– Friends (all of them, even those estranged or mad at me or just too busy); without friends to drink a beer or tell a trouble or even share a tall tale, well…what would be the point, really? precious gifts….

– My pets, current and past. “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Not my quote but definitely my truth…if you want to know true love, get a dog. The parrot comes close, too. The jury’s still out on the fish.

Jack Harper (about 1948)

– Having a job, let alone a job I really, really like! Given the economy, perhaps this should’ve been first but things fall where they fall.

Minnie Harper (about 1940)

– My dad, dead for 30 years, but whom I value more each day and still miss deeply and truly.

– My mom, dead for 20 years and whom I don’t really miss at all, but who is still teaching me lessons every day

– Electronic communication, without which I’d be even more isolated than I feel tonight. Yes, email is better than nothing!

The list could go on and on and on because I really do know how very, very lucky and blessed I am. I have a student whose apartment burned last week and he lost everything. EVERYTHING. I have another student who knew one of the kids who committed suicide and another whose friend died in a carwreck. I’m not in a hospital tonight, nor am I at a wake. My chronic illnesses are more about choices I make than about compulsions I have little control over. I have not been abused or battered. I did not go hungry tonight (or any other night -ever!). I get to sleep in my own bed tonight. I have people who LOVE me, deeply, passionately, forever. I am so very, very blessed.

Think about it. I’ll bet you have stuff to be grateful for, too. Hey – it’s Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

A month goes by and I haven’t written in the blog. I say I can’t believe it, but I can….now it’s been TWO months! Well, I’m back, for the moment, to talk about life, The Writer, and The Writer’s Wife’s life!

Lemon Tree Oct09

Back Yard Meyer Lemon Tree

September was a fog….classes back in full swing, getting organized for the BIG READ (our NEA grant), writing things other than blog posts, working wit a colleague on some research, seeing to family and family matters, and getting my master bathroom torn out, tiled, and re-plumbed. That rolled into October when we had another MAJOR plumbing job done, The Writer had a root canal, my guilt about classes piled, the weather turned cooler, our lemons turned yellow, and the grass grew.

What can I say?

The Big Read project is almost done. We have a very few activities left, mostly out in our partner libraries. We had a fabulous speaker come in to lecture for the project, Ms. Jane Yolen, who took a wonderful interest in The Writer and gave him some great tips on potential agent contacts. What a classy and smart lady! Ron and I had a great time with her at dinner on her last evening here; another role model there for me: intelligent,

Otek holding Big Read button!

Otek Holding Big Read button!

thoughtful, interesting and interested, active, ….well, you get the picture. I pretty much fell in love!

The Writer had a reading or two during October, one of them for The BIG READ (about sparrowhawks – our book was A Wizard of EarthSea! If you haven’t read it, you’ll just have to in order to understand the sparrowhawk significance!). He is still pumping out articles for the newspapers and people keep encouraging him to do a “collection” of his columns in book form. Yes, that was a project we discussed doing in spring 09 before I got the call back to the classroom….we’ll see what happens there.

DIAL Sunset Marsh 1009

DIAL-Airport Marsh At Sunset (10-09)

And, yes, there was birding done this month: Dauphin Island saw us down for our second PWA field trip of the year: a lucious, perfectly fall weekend with breezes and cool temps and great birds. I didn’t see a single snake! Probably some sort of record for me and probably has something to do with my stubborn refusal to look at the ground. But even without that battling-fear-of-snakes strategy, there were just too many wonderful, colorful, noisy, lovely birds to watch for me to be worried about snakes. Heaven!

So, here we are, just before Halloween. Tomorrow ends another week at work (like I don’t work around the clock and on weekends!) and another week of classes. I pulled a semester calendar today and counted. Only 10 more class meetings for our in-person class. I don’t know how we will move them through all the material they have to get through before end of term! I think I say that each semester, though, and somehow we manage – well, more or less!

And we have begun to look forward to Thanksgiving and our annual trip south to visit with our friends from Miami. It’s been a year since we saw the kids – one in college and the other entered high school this year….

It has all been so fast! I long for a week of those long summer days when you had nothing to do, nowhere to go, no real demands and the days seemed like they lasted a million years. If I had a week of those, maybe I could get caught up!

Well, a Meyer Lemon Pie is awaiting and Grey’s Anatomy will soon be on. Here’s wishing you a …

Happy Halloween!

My Latest Leap from the Cliff

I haven’t mentioned this to many people but I was invited to apply for a seat on the Mississippi Audubon Board. I have no real idea what the board does, no real clue as to what board members are expected to do/contribute, but, what the heck! I do know some of the Audubon Center folks and a board member or two! You’ve got it: I applied. And was accepted. Got the call last week that they want me to come onto the board to represent the south central part of the state.


View of the Davis Home at Holly Spring Audubon Center

Now, sitting on boards is not new to me (local Audubon Chapter, local Shelter, DREAM of Hattiesburg, and more) but it is my first statewide board. Of course, I feel wholly unprepared and inadequate — nothing new there – I always feel inadequate! But I have a Ph.D.! Surely I can research issues, study, talk to people in the area and get their take so I can represent them? And heaven knows I have lots of opinions on how things “ought to be done.” I can do this job. And why not? I didn’t have enough to do anyway! This, Jerry, is what people who finish their dissertations do with their newfound free time – everything!

Katrina+4: The day before


On August 28, 2009 (Katrina + 4 years – 1 day), I drove to work. I’m driving a different route these days since the campus has closed some roads to 2-way traffic. So I drove past a small lake on the campus and noticed a beautiful great blue heron standing in the lake trying to look like a snag — and doing a darn fine job, too. I thought about what that setting looked like 4 years ago: wooded, dark, very glen-like but not that many birds; and I gave thanks for the devastation that left a place like that for the Great Blue Herons right next to Hardy Street’s bumpered traffic and too-busy-to-notice eyes. And I cried a little for what was lost in Katrina and gave thanks for what has come and will still come from it.

And, today, 4 years ago, our house was under fallen trees (see photo for view from my back door), we were cut off from the world, and had a blissful few hours of having no idea what had happened in New Orleans and on the gulf coast: the end of innocence. Happy anniversary.

“getting old”

Yesterday, my beautiful husband told me, “I know I’m getting old. When I met her [speaking about a beautiful girl with a stacked up chest that we saw on campus] the first thing I thought about was that she was going to have back problems when she was my age.”

When I stopped laughing, I kissed him.

Happy Wednesday.

WINGS Portrait-Whidbey IS