The words of the world

Vedauwoo, Wyoming 2011
Washington D.C. 2011

I like to think that everything is made up of words. If you looked deep enough, instead of atoms you’d find that everything is a microscopic mass of words, quietly composing themselves into living things. Like atoms, words are always moving, vibrating in place with possibility, giving everything definition and substanance.

Utah 2011
Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina 2010
Words are life, they are everything I see and hear. Everything has its own words even if we can’t translate them.
Empidonax flycatcher, Erie Pennsylvania 2011
Glacier National Park, Montana 2009

I want to be a translator.
I want my words, the words of me, my essence, to be part of the words of the world. That’s all anyone wants, to be part of their surroundings, to be a thread in the fabric of life, to be part of the whole. If my thread wasn’t here, who would be in my place? Without my words, my noise, what sound would there be? There would be words to fill my gap, but the whole composition would be altered. Or so I choose to believe.

Cooper’s Hawk, Erie Pennsylvania 2011
Zion National Park, Utah 2008

We all need to be spoken and read.

Aullwood Audubon Center and Farm, Dayton Ohio 2009
New York City, New York 2011

Dave Shealy’s Gorilla Supplier

I suppose that’s inaccurate, because I don’t know for sure that Dave got his gorilla here, but if you’ve ever wanted a giant concrete gorilla just like the one outside of the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters in Ochopee Florida (and I know I have), then I know where you can get one: Bethune, South Carolina, conveniently located just 7 miles from McBee, South Carolina, which is not conveniently located near anywhere.

If you ever happen to journey to Ochopee FL, the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters are a must. I can honestly say that conversing with Dave Shealy was one of the more interesting conversations I’ve had, and I’ve had some pretty interesting conversations. If you’ve ever talked with my little brother or my friends Max, Patrick, or Meghan, you’ll know what I mean. Also, let me just mention that I’m the only one who actually talked with Dave Shealy, as Meghan and Patrick were both suddenly attacked by the shy bug, the poops. Yes Meghan and Patrick, I just called you both poops. On the internet, where it never goes away. So HA.

The Skunk Ape website:

Bethune, South Carolina
Ochopee, Florida
(the one in the middle is the gorilla)
Outside the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters
(and campground, reptile and bird exhibit, $5 per person, 5 and under free).
Not a Skunk Ape, but we love it anyway.
The place to get your very own genuine concrete products, including gorillas, giraffes, giant roosters, fish, bears, elephants, pigs, palm trees, and an intriguing variety of fountains and statues. Not sure if they ship, but I could be convinced to rent a UHaul and drive your concrete giant rooster to you (in the continental US, of course).

They also have giant giraffes, like the one I saw on the side of the highway at a fireworks store near Pioneer, Tennessee. And giant roosters, and a hugging Jesus, and palm trees, and a lighthouse, pretty much anything you could want made out of concrete. If they don’t have it you don’t want it!

I know what I’m putting on my Christmas list this year: giant concrete rooster.
It’d look lovely in our garden at home, don’t you think Mom?

Bethune Pottery. I like the giant roosters (they have more than one out front, in different colors) and the Jesus under the palm tree.
Outside a fireworks store off I-75 in Pioneer, Tennessee. They don’t have pink elephants at Bethune Pottery, but they did have grey ones.
I took this photo on a road trip in early 2010, when my trusty road-tripping companion and I drove from Ohio to Colorado via the Florida Keys.  It was a long drive.

Spring in Ohio

Last week I was in Ohio. Primarily I was there to eat chocolate and ham at my grandparent’s house for Easter, but I also had time to take some pictures of all the beautiful blooming things before I left again for parts unknown. By ‘parts unknown’ I mean South Carolina, which is where I am right now for a 12 week internship. I wish I had more time at home to relax and snuggle with my fur babies (as my friend Angie calls them), but I’m excited to play in the woods with red-cockaded woodpeckers!

Bogie and Jasper joined me for my stroll in the woods
Storm clouds are rolling in
Jasper has fantastic whiskers, don’t you think?
There ARE gators in Ohio!
The gator and the cat (below) were done by Don Drumm, who is a fantastic artist and a really nice person:
We love our kitties.
Don Drumm, the artist who made this, goes to our church. I talked with him on Easter, and he told me to marry rich. It’s just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man, he said. I told him I’ll work on it.
Note: climbing apple trees in rubber boots one-handed (because the camera is in your other hand) is slightly difficult.
Sometimes Jasper and Bogie even let me sleep in my own bed too. They let me have the little sliver left over by the wall and hog all the covers. It’s very cozy in my twin-sized bed, but generally no one falls off.
It snowed one day! I missed most of the cold this winter, so I guess one day of snow in April is okay… I  got to wear my down jacket!
White-breasted nuthatch at the feeder

Merritt Island: Heart and Soul

Part of my soul lives in the mountains. The steepness, the rough and smooth edges, peaks sharp or rounded, a barren summit or a wooded grove on the hillsides, the view, and the breath of fresh air that carries a special taste of true nature. I feel free of the weights I wrap around myself, the ones I didn’t realize were there.

“Mountains inspire awe in any human person who has a soul. They remind us of our frailty, our unimportance, of the briefness of our span upon this earth. They touch the heavens, and sail serenely at an altitude beyond even the imaginings of a mere mortal… They are cruel, dangerous, and possessed of a beauty one can never grow weary of.”
~ Elizabeth Ason, from The Exploits and Adventures of Miss Alethea Darcy

Part of my soul lives in the desert, in the barren rock. When I look out into the wide-open space and gaze at a rock tower rising up into the sky, I just am. Everything is quiet, and I’m just there. The starkness absorbs all the internal moaning and rattling, and all that’s left is the rock, the dirt, the sun, the endless sky.

Gopher Tortoise, Merritt Island NWR 2012

These places speak to me, resonate with me deep inside, and I feel a special sense of completeness when I am there. They feel right, like walking around your childhood home in the middle of the night. You know the exact number of steps without counting, the placement of each table and chair, so that even in the dark you can find your way without tripping. My soul can live in the mountains without tripping all over itself in confusion. Sometimes I feel that I am laying on the floor in the dark, waiting for someone to turn the light on and notice me, quietly moaning. I tend to feel that way most often when I’m stuck in boring, flat places, probably because I find it easier to have adventures when I’m in the desert or the mountains.

When I was heading down to Florida and Merritt Island, I was not particularly looking forward to my time there. Florida is flat, hot, buggy, boring. Coming from a cross-county road trip, camping in Utah and Wyoming and rock climbing in Colorado, Florida was not where I wanted to be heading. And, well, I found that Florida is flat, hot, buggy, and boring. But, to my surprise, I loved it anyway.

Roseate Spoonbill and Snowy Egret
Heading into the sunrise to look for Scrub Jays

I leave bits of my heart everywhere, tucked in with the people and places I go. Quite a bit of my heart is in Ohio, but there are pieces in other states and countries too, in places I have and have not been, in places only seen by those I love.

White Pelicans
Black-necked Stilt
Playalinda Beach, Canaveral National Seashore

And part of my heart is at Merritt Island. There are some places you stay and you know you are home, even if it’s just for a short while. This is one of them. No matter where I travel, I will always remember that place, that time, those people. Especially those people 🙂

Me, Betty, and Connie (refuge volunteers) after kayaking with dolphins and manatees at Merritt Island NWR
Meghan and Angie kayaking at Blue Springs State Park
Patrick. Blue Springs State Park
Patrick and I are expert kayakers, can’t you tell? Blue Springs State Park

Adventures in Florida: Part 2

A little late, but here it is!
This is the rest of the pictures from our weekend road trip down to southern Florida a couple weeks ago.
The second part of our Great Southern Florida Adventure: Part 2, the final chapter of our epic two-part journey of discovery, hilarity, and deliciousness. In this chapter our trio of heroes visit the Everglades, hunt for skunk apes in the wilds of Big Cypress, and succeed in not seriously maiming themselves by doing odd physical feats in Shark Valley. Also, they see lots of cool birds and other assorted wildlife and have more than a fairly good time in the process.

I got a NASA badge!

 Last week I finally got my NASA badge, which means I can go into the restricted areas on the refuge and over by all the NASA buildings! 
So, on the way back from the badging station, Candice (the acting refuge manager) and I went on a little drive around the Kennedy Space Center and took some pictures. She’s been on the KSC tour so many times she could tell me all about everything, my own personal tour guide.
The Vehicle Assembly Building. Each stripe on the flag is wide enough for a tour bus to drive on without touching another stripe.
The Vehicle Assembly Building, with the display shuttle in front.
Not an actual shuttle. This is the model that was inside. It has been moved outside because they’re putting one of the actual shuttles on display.
Closeup of the shuttle replica.
NASA News!
The countdown clock.
Note the large rectangular door on the side, one way to tell this isn’t a real shuttle.
The long gravel path is how the shuttles are moved from the VAB to the launching site. They are transported on a vehicle called a Crawler, and it takes something like 8 hours to move the shuttle.
Where the shuttles are launched.
The Beach House, where the astronauts spend the night with their families before they are blasted up into space.
View from the Beach House.
View from the Beach House.
View from the Beach House.
The Crawler– how the shuttle is transported from the VAB to the launching platform.
Not sure what the purpose of this structure is.
So we had to get out and walk underneath it.
This is 1 side 2. Whatever that means.

Kayaking with manatees

Great Egret on the lookout for idle manatees.
No manatees over here.

Monday I finally took a kayak out to Bair’s Cove boat ramp, the notorious manatee hangout. Those manatees are a brassy  bunch, they just swim right up to you and shove your kayak around like they own the place. I believe there was some, ahem, bedroom activity going on, which is why they were so active this morning. There was a lot of twisting and possibly some shouting going on by the looks of it.

Barbara Manatee (manatee, manatee) / You are the one for me (one for me, one for me) / Sent from up above (a manatee from heaven) / You are the one I loveYes, that is a Veggie Tales song, sung by Larry the Cucumber.  It gets stuck in my head every time I see a manatee, which is not as often as I would like.
I’ve got your nose!
Manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes (according to but typically surface to breathe noisily every 3 to 5 minutes.
To see my video of some manatee action, click here:
Manatee poo floats. And is very smelly. (Max, this picture is for you).

Manatees can grow to be up to 12 feet long, and I think I may have seen a few that were indeed that large. It’s a bit disconcerting to see the real big guys floating around passively under your kayak and then realizing that, if they decided to get at all frisky, you would be taking a dip. But then you could say that you were attacked by a manatee, so it’d probably be worth it.

I’m going that-a-way
If I was a Brown Pelican I’d stand on that rock too.
Sing a joyful noise, all ye pelicans!


Florida, 2012
North Carolina, 2011


                Pounding, pounding. The dull wet slap of my feet in damp-packed sand at the edge of water. Waves, irregular intervals, stretching for my toes. I run, leap, quick. Along the edge of life, where motion and stillness collide, I stop and breathe. Deep prana, look out over the ocean, exhale. I see my self, a dolphin, leap from my soul out into the blue and I know peace. The waves grab but always release. I run but I always stop. The sand is cool on my feet, the waves rough and loud. Quick, graceful, jump, gone.
Florida, 2012
Kelley’s Island, Ohio, 2009
North Carolina, 2011
                On the edge of my world I study the creatures that reside there, riding the edges of existence. These birds, equally at home on air, water, or land, fascinate me. How they dominate these three elements is mystifying, as I only manage a shaky grasp on one. I watch them run in and out along the shoreline, probing quickly between waves, periodically leaping into the air as one and circling around my head, guiding by instinct until they are clear of the potential danger I pose. Eyes squinted against the sun and wind, I watch as they land down the beach and resume dodging waves. The longer-legged sandpipers have no need to scurry in and out of every wave, but the stubby-legged sanderlings run to avoid a cool dousing. Occasionally, one small piper misjudges and must take to the air in a small flustered bundle of dripping feathers, peeping until it again settles back into rhythm with the constant motion of the waves.
                I feel so apart from these natural rhythms, though I wish to be a part. But I know, in an hour or so, that I will turn around and walk back to my car, drive back to civilization. I have nothing against modern conveniences, but at times I wish I could be more like these shorebirds and span different worlds with such ease. Being able to transition so smoothly between two extremes, like a bird between air and shore, would be like slipping into a second reality.
Florida, 2012
Galapagos Islands, 2008
Florida, 2012
                I want to dance barefoot in the sand, spinning until the dunes and sea blend together in a swirl of color and I fall winded on the soft sand in a heap, inhaling the damp air, waiting for the world to right itself around me.
Costa Rica, 2009
North Carolina, 2011

The Rhythm of Family

This is the story of how we begin to remember


This is the powerful pulsing of love in the vein

After the dream of falling and calling your name out

These are the roots of rhythm

And the roots of rhythm remain


~from Under African Skies by Paul Simon

A Journey to the South

Last weekend Meghan, Patrick and I took a trip down south to see what we could see. Between the three of us we took a bazillion pictures (I counted) and I put some of the best of them together to make this video. This is actually only the first half of the trip, Part 2 is coming soon to a theater (or computer screen) near you!
YouTube video link, that may or may not work (they don’t like it when you use music without securing the proper rights):